Skip to main content
Internet Archive's 25th Anniversary Logo

Full text of "ERIC ED395857: Folk and Traditional Music in New York State."

See other formats


ED 395 857 

SO 025 945 






Allen, Ray; Groce, Nancy, Ed. 

Folk and Traditional Music in New York State. 

New York Folklore Society, Newfield. 



201p.; A special double issue on this theme. 

New York Folklore Society, P.O. Box 130, Newfield, NY 
14867 ($6). 

Collected Works - Serials (022) — Historical 
Materials (060) Viewpoints (Opinion/Position 
Papers, Essays, etc.) (120) 

New York Folklore; vl4 n3“4 Sum“Fall 1988 



MF01/PC09 Plus Postage. 

American Indian Culture; Anthropology; Black Culture; 
Chinese Americans ; Community Educat ion; Community 
Resources; Cultural Activities; Cultural Maintenance ; 
’'Ethnic Groups; *Folk Culture; Greek Ajnericans; 
Italian Americans; Japanese American Culture; ’'Music: 
*Mus i c Educat i on ; Mus icians; Puerto Rican Culture; 
Songs ; Whites 

E thnomus i co logy ; *Fo 1 k Mus ic; Haitian Culture; Irish 
Americans; Musical Performance; Music Ensembles*, ’'New 
York; Rap Music 


This special journal issue is designed to draw 
attention to the varied musical traditions of cultural groups living 
in New York State. Recent research by folklorists and musicologists 
also is examined. Articles include: (1) "Introduction: Folk and 

Traditional Music in New York State" (Ray Allen; Nancy Groce); (2) 
"African-American Sacred Quartet Singing in New York City" (Ray 
Allen); (3) "The Anglo-American Fiddle Tradition in New York State" 
(Simon Bronner) ; (4) "Survival of Greek Folk Music in New York 

(Sotirios Chianis); (5) "Writing While They're Singing: A 
Conversation About Longhouse Social Dance Songs" (Michael Sam Cronk) ; 
(6) "Traditional Japanese Music in New York State" (Linda Fujie); (7) 
"Country Dancing in Central and Western New York State" (James 
Kimball); (8) "Music in New York City's Chinese Community" (Audrey R. 
Mazur); (9) "'Our Own Little Isle:' Irish Traditional Music in New 
York" (Rebbeca S. Miller); (10) "From Eastern Europe to East 
Broadway: Yiddish Music in Old World and New" (Henry Sapoznik) ; (11) 
"Italian Music in New York" (Michael Schles inger) ; (12) "Puerto Rican 

Music in New York City" (Roberta Singer); (13) "'Rock the House:' The 
Aesthetic Dimensions of Rap Music in New York City" (Madeline 
Slovenz) ; (14) "Anglo-American Folksong Collecting and Singing 

Traditions in Rural New York State" (Vaughn Ramsey Ward); and (15) 
"'Haiti Cherie': Journey of an Immigrant Music in New York City" 

(Lois E. Wilcken) . (NP) 

**************************************Vc*Vc* ******************* ********** 

* Reproductions supplied by EDRS are the best that can be made ’' 

* from the or iginal document . 

* Vf * * * Vc * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *' V c * * * * * * * * Vc * * * * * * * * Vf * * Vf Vf * * * * * * Vf * * * * * * * * * * * * * 

special Issue 

Office o* educational Roseorch and impfovbmenl 
center (ERIC) 

received from the person or organization 
originating it 

Minor changes have been made to 
improve reproduction quality 

Points of View or opinions staled in this 
docurr.ent do not necessarily represent 
olhcmlOERI position or policy. 

The New York Folklore Society, Inc. 

Founded 1944 

Executive Board, 1988-89 

President: Daniel Franklin Ward (Seneca Falls); Vice President: john 

ton); Secretery/Treasurer: Ellen McHalc (Esperance); Past President: Lydia Fish (Buffalo) 
Business Administrator: John Suter (Newfield); Journal Editor: Phillips Stev ens, Jr. (Buf- 
falo). Regional Representatives: Varick A. Chittenden (Canton, Northern), Jackie Dav 
(Syracuse, Eastern), Kate Koperski (Buffalo, Western). Members-at-Urge: Ray Allen (Ncu 
'lork), Mary Barile (Arkville), Janis Benincasa (Pine Hill), Mitzie Collins (Rixhester), Peter 
Voorheis (Bath). 

Annual membership in the Society is S2? individual, $.25 institutional; foreign add So; 
s^llmt (U.S. only) $15. Members receive NEW YC2RK FOLKLORE, published twice a 
year (Spring and Fall), and the quarterly Nite York Folklore NMr. Address all inquines 
«mcerning membership, subscriptions, and back issues of tV |ournal and newsletter 
min Suir Business Administrator, P.O. Box 1.20, Newfield, NY 14867. Address inquiries 
ailicemTng items for the Newsletter to Daniel Franklin Ward, Newsletter Editor ^ Bcix 
qpnpca Falls NY 13148. Back issues of the journal (except certain Speual Issut 
“ “ H,, « «,b. « i™., M; MBV YORK TOLKLORE, 

Vols t-9 (1983), $6; obtain a price list for subsequent issues from the Bu.siness Administrator 
Manuscripts for the journal, and requests for editorial information, should Bu ^dd^ 
to the Editor; address correspondence concerning reviews of books, films, nu rdi g.. 
exhibitions etc., to the Reviews Editor. Editors addresses appear on the opposite page, 
a summary statement of editorial policy, and information (or contributors, appears in- 
side the back cover of this issue. 



Special Issue: 

Folk and Traditional Music 
in New York State 

Ray Allen and Nancy Groce, Guest Editors 

Vol. 14, Nos. 3-4 
Summer-Fall, 1988 

I'uWiaUion of this issue is supp.'rted in p.irt bv u grant from the [•oik Arts Pro- 
gram, N'eu York Statu G^uncil on tliu Arts. 

The Journal of the New York Folklore Society 

(succeeds Nciv York Folklore Qiunlcrhj. 1945-1974) 

Editor: Phillips Stevens, Jr., Department of Anthropology, SUN'l at Buffalo, Ellicott Com- 
plex, Buffalo, NY 142hl. Tel (716) 636-2302; messages (716) 636-2414. 

Reviews Editor: Lvdia Fish, Department of Anthropology, SUNY College at Buffalo, 1300 
Elmwood Av’onue, Buffalo, NY 14222. Tel (716) 878-6110. 

Editorial Board: Varick A. Chittenden, Lydia Fish, loyce Ice, Bruce Jackson, Barbara 
Kirshenblatt-C.imbJett, W.F.ll. NicoJaisen, Mary ArnoJd Twining, Daniel Franklin 

I-dilt^rial Assistants, this issuu: David DiMinni. Crvsial Ma/ur, Michaul /die. 

The Editorship of NEW YORK FOLKLORE: is sponsored bv the State University ol New 

York at Buffalo. 

NBV YORK FOl.KLORl: Is indexed in .4/7s oV }{iwuwilu'> Litalion Iiuic.x: Mrmi huhw, 

abslr«Kled in Ah<{/nif> and AinerurL //Nh’ri/ lUhi 

ISSN* 03S1-2D4X 

bv The New ^ork Hdklore Society. Inc. All rights reserved. 

4 | 


A Note from the Editor 

iVi-.T York Folkloiv niuis to publish n Specie'll Issue or Special Section on 
ti topic of currei'icy in folkloi'e studies, or on an aspect of the incredible' 
rich cultural heritage of our State, at least once a \'ear. The usual first move 
is to select a specialist in the chosen area, and to invite that person to act 
as Guest Editor. But any feelings of having been honored bv such a re- 
c|iiest rapidly pass, as the Guest Editors realize the nature of the task they 
have agreed to undertake (and the Editor recalls his mother's advice on 
the proper way to treat a guest). It's not like editing a book, to which a 
publisher is not yet committed, The Guest Editor of a special issue of a 
journal has to deal not only with authors and their own agendas, but with 
the journars regular Editor and his (damned) publication schedule. But 
always, when everything is in, the Editor plucks out his her new 
gray hairs, kills off the antacid bottle, and pens ’acknowledgements," 
graciously thanking all who had a part in. the project. But who thanks the 
Guest Editors? 

Ra\' Allen and Nanev' Groce are both distinguished cnthnomusicologists, 
current or past members of our Society's Executive Board, and among the 
most energetic and imaginative folklori-^ts in our State. Thev have worked 
patiently and persistently on thi.s project for well o\'er a vear. They com- 
bined continual good cheer with a determined commitment to excellence. 
Here is the re.sult, and on behalf of e New York Folklore Society, 1 thank 
them for it. It is a unique and remarkable \ oluim , and 1 know that 
it will be regarded as an importanf one. 

P.S., jr. 

Nin’ember, 1988 

Cih'iT photo: 1,0:^ dc la 21, a Puri lo Rican bomba and plena cn>cnddc 

in Nr.c York City (see article by Roberta Sinyer, >). 139), lop, t-r: Francisco Rivera, 
Sannny Taiico, Pablo Ortiz, luan Gutierrez. Bottom, l-r: Alberto Cepeda, Euyeni'a 
Ramos, and Beniamin I lores (/93.s 1988). Photo In/ Marlis Momber, 198b. 



Vol. XIV, Nos. 3-4, 1988 


Special Issue: 

Folk and Traditional Music 
in New York State 

Rav Allen and Nancy Groce, Guest Editors 

Introduction: Folk and Traditional Music in 

New York State 

Ray Allen and Nancy Groce 


African-American Sacred Quartet Singing in 
New York Citv 

Ray Allen 


The Anglo-American Fiddle IVadition 
in New York State 

Sim<in Bronner 


Survival <if Greek Folk Music in New York 

Sotirios iSam) Chianis 


Writing While They're Singing: .A Conversation 
about Longhouse Social Dance Songs 

Michael Sam C ronk 


Traditional Japanese Music 
in New York State 

Linda Fu)ie 


Countr. Dancing in Central and 
Western New Y'ork State 

lames Kimball 


Musk in Ne\v York City's C'lnnese Community 

.\udiv\- R. Ma/ur 


"Our Own Little Isle:" Irish Traditional 
Music in New York 

Rebecca S. Miller 


From Eastern Europe to East Broadway: 
Yiddish Music in Old World and New 

Menrv Sapo/nik 


Italian Music in New Ybrk 

Michael Schlesinger 


Puerto Rican Music in New York City 

Roberta Singer 


"Rock the House:" T! e Aesthetic Dimensions 
of Rap Music in New Ybrk City 

i\ladeline Sloven/ 


Anglo-American Eolksong Collecting and Singing 
Traditions in Rural New Ybrk State 

Vaughn Ramsey Ward 


Haiti Chcnc: journey of an Immigrant Music 
in New- Ybrk Citv 

J ois F.. Wilckcn 


Contributors to this Ismiv. 190; Fditor's V’ar-Lnd Report, 192. 



Vo!. XIV, Nos. 3-4, 1988 


Folk and Traditional Music in Nezv York State 


The dictionary definition of an empire as "an aggregate of n<itions or 
people" under the rule of a single government, can be applied readily to 
the Empire State. It is difficult to make many meaningful generalizations 
about New York, a state whose huge population is one of the most ethnically 
diverse in the nation, and a state which is also further subdivided into 
almost a dozen distinct geo-cultural regions. New York contains one of the 
world's largest and most cosmopolitan cities, yet vast tracts of farm land 
and wilderness remain; Wall Street and Madison Avenue may receive more 
publicity, but the state's largest industry is still agriculture. Equally diverse 
are the myriad forms of traditional and community-based music preserved, 
performed and enjoyed within its borders. This issue of New York Folklore 
is designed to draw attention to the varied musical traditions in New York 
State, as well as to recent research by folklorists and ethnomusicologists. 

In terms of music and culture. New York has always been diverse. When 
the Dutch arrived in the 1620.S, a number of culturally distinct Native 
American groups were living within the borders of present-day New' Yc 
the Algo nquian -speaking Leni-U\iape dwelt in the .south; w'hile Iroquoian- 
speaking groups such as the Mohawk, Onondaga, Oneida, Seneca, and 
later Tuscarora lived in the northern and western part of the state. Michael 
Sam Cronk's article on the music of the Iroquois discu.sses the on-going 
musical traditions of some of earliest New Yorkers. 

The Dutch were generally tolerant in their attitudes toward other Euro- 
pean ethnic groups, as long as they did not interfere w'ith the colony's 
primary purpose as a trading station. They settled what is today 
"downstate" New York — hong Island, the New York metropcilitan area, 
and northward along the Hudson River as far as Beverwyck (now Albany). 
The Dutch were more liberal in their attitudes toward music than their New 
England contemporaries who, though not opposed to home music mak- 
ing, did object to public musical entertainments and the use of musical 
instruments in church. There is every reason to belie\'e that Dutch folk 
music thrived in public and pri\'ate performances, but unfortunately few 
records describing musical life in New Amsterdam have survived, and even 



fewer examples of Dutch musical traditions have been collected from oral 

When the British wrested control of the colony from Holland in 1660, 
their new acquisition already was home to citizens from diverse ethnic 
backgrounds: in addition to the Dutch, downstate residents included 
signifkant numbers of Huguenots, Germans, Irish, African-Americans, 
Sephardic Jews, and a smattering of others. Meanwhile, "'upstate"' New 
York was being developed rapidly as New Englanders, primarily of Anglo- 
or Scotch-Irish descent, pressed westward from Connecticut and 
Massachusetts to settle as close to the mid-state boundary establish,ed by 
the Royal Proclamation Lme of 1763 as the British authorities would per- 
mit. These groups brought with them forms of vocal and instrumental 
music which can still be heard in present-day New York. The articles in 
this volume by James Kimball on Anglo-American dance, Vaughn Ward 
on Anglo-American songs, and Simon Bronner on Anglo-American fiddle 
and string band music, discuss musical traditions whose roots can be traced 
back to this era in New York State history. 

After the American Revolution, when governmental control over 
westward expansion was lifted, settlers rushed into fertile lands of western 
New York, establishing as they went a string of settlements in the central 
part of the state with such euphonious classical names as Utica, Syracuse, 
Ithaca, Rome, Greece and Homer. When the Erie Canal was completed 
in 1825, these towns rapidly developed into major manufacturing cities as 
the waterway provided an easy route for the movement of both goods and 
culture from one end of the state to the other. During the following decades, 
the state's commerce and industries attracted ever larger waves of new 
Americans to New Yc>rk. Major immigrant groups during the anti-bcllum 
period included the Irish, especially during and after the famines of the 
1840s, and German refugees following the Revolution of 1848. During the 
decades following the Civil War, the state's thriving mills and factories at- 
tiacted ?ven greater numbers of immigrants from Southern and Eastern 
Europe. Poles, Italians, Jews, Slovaks, Ukrainians, Greeks, and Russians 
came through the Port of New York by the hundreds of thousands, bring- 
ing musical as well as other cultural traditions with them. The articles con- 
tributed by Henry Sapoznik on Yiddish music, Rebecca Miller on Irish 
music, and Michael Schlesinger on Italian music, examine the traditions 
of some of the major ethnic groups whose ancestors arrived in New York 
during the latter half of the nineteenth century. 

Immigration to New York continued, and is continuing, unabated. 
Beginning with World War I and persisting through the 1950s, large 
numbers of southern, rural African-Americans migrated to the state. New 
York City experienced large scale immigration from Cuba and Puerto Rico 
during and immediately following WW II. In the aftermath of the 1965 im- 
migration law reforms, Afro-Caribbean people from Jamaica, Haiti, 


Trinidcid, and the Dominican Republic arrived in New York 'ity and the 
surrounding metropolitan area. In addition, New York's older Chinese and 
Arab (Lebanese, Syrian, Palestinian, and Jordanian) communities have 
grown significantly in recent years, while the influx c^f Kc^rean, South 
American (Colombians, Peruvians, Chileans and Argentineans) and Rus- 
sian Jewish immigrants during the past ten years have added to our cultural 

Like pre\'ioLis immigrants, these new groups come to New York in 
search of economic opportunity, and, in some cases, escape from racism, 
religious persecution, and oppressi\'e political regimes. And, like tlieir 
prev .-cessors, most new’ immigrants arrive more richly er.dow’ed w’ith tradi- 
tional culture than with material heritage. As "cultural baggage" goes, music 
is among the most portable, and it is often cme of the most cherished forms 
of traditional culture maintained within an ethnic communit\’. These 
recently-arrived immigrants and rural migrants have made significant con- 
tributions to the musical heritage of the Empire State, as is clearly 
demonstrated in the articles by Ray Allen on African-American Gtispel 
music, Audrey Mazur on (.'hinese music, Roberta Singer on Puerto Rican 
music, Linda Fujieon Japanese music, and Lois Wilcken on Haitian music. 

There are numerous ways to approach the study of music, ranging fmm 
formal analysis t)f sound structure to investigations of the social dimen- 
sions of music making. This \'olume stresses the latter, emphasizing the 
historical development, performance, function, and meaning of musical 
activity within specific ethnic communities. While much early ftilksong 
scholarship focused tin the collection and analysis of song texts, tiur authors 
are primarily ctmeerned w’ith the social and histtirical context in which 
music making unftilds. This cultural approach to music has recentlv found 
fauir with a number tif academic disciplines including folklore, 
ethnomusicology, musicology, anthropology, and sticial histtiry, as well as 
among journalists with serious interests in American and world music. 

In terms of tn’erall organization, each article in this issue focuses on 
the music culture of an individual ethnic group — a standard and accessi- 
ble method in which to present information on widelv d' 'gent musical 
genres. Some offer in-depth looks at specific forms, sue rap, gospel, 
balladry, or fiddle music. Others provide broad surv’evs Oi the range of 
musical activ’ity of particular peoples, such as the Puerto Rican, Haitian, 
Greek, and Japanese-American communities in New’ York. In either case, 
many of the authors have gone beyond the hounds of w’hat is generally 
perceived to be "folk" music to include genres often categorized as 
"popular" (suggesting commercially generated and media transmitted) or 
"classical" (suggesting composed, formally taught and institutionally sup- 
ported) music. UL' welcome this broad approach. Realizing the nebulous 
and somew’hat ethnocentric nature of the folk/popular'classical trichotomy, 
we seriously debated the use of the term "fcilk music" in the title of this 




volume. Perhaps "ethnic" or "immigrant" music would have been a better 
choice, although those words too are loaded with ambiguity. We eventual- 
ly settled for "folk and traditional," broadly defining the term to include 
not only music that is old, anonymous, and aurally transmitted, but also 
that which is community-based and centered primarily in small group per- 
formances. Thus, forms generally classified as popular music such as rap, 
salsa, and gospel, are examined in their "folk" community settings by 
Madeline Slovenz, Roberta Singer, and Ray Allen respectively. The 
malleable boundaries of folk and popular music are evident in Simon Brun- 
ner's examination of the influence of radio broadcasting on traditional New 
York State string band music. Moreover, as the contributions of Linda Fu- 
jie and Audrey Mazur clearly demonstrate, certain genres of Japanese and 
Chinese musics commonly classified as "cl.issical" operate w'ithin the con- 
fines of ethnic and immigrant communities in a manner closely akin to 
more traditionally recognized fc^lk styles. 

A number of salient themes recur throughout this volume. The im- 
pact of twentieth-century mass media on traditional music is of paramount 
importance. In spite of its homogenizing tendencies, the eaii\’ radio and 
recordings industry helped preserve and spread traditional styles, as Simon 
Bronner, Henry Sapoznik, Michael Schlesinger, and Sam Chianis point 
out in their articles on Anglo-American, Yiddish, Italian-American and 
Greek-American music. Further, by making more music available to larger 
audiences, radio and recordings inadvertently stimulated ci’oss-cultural 
blending of styles, which resulted in the emergence of exciting new hybrid 
forms such as the Latin jazz and salsa, i laitian cofiipas, and Greek boHzoiiki 

Another central concern is the importance of tradititmal music in main- 
taining group identit\' in a multi-ethnic societ\’. Lxamining Puertti Rican 
music within the historical context of the Liti no identity movement, Roberta 
Singer aptly concludes: 

The use of traditivmal s\Tnbols renders the past important not 
for its own sake, but for the continuity and grounding it offers 
for contemporary existence. Thus, all performance of Puerto 
Rican music, w'hether traditional or tradition-inspired, is a 
display of ethnicity by performers, whether or not they con- 
sciously acknowledge that display, (p. 149) 

For recently arrived immigrant groups, traditional music may provide a 
powerful symbolic link to their homeland culture. R^r examp^le, Lois Wilcken 
points out that for Haitian immigrants in New York City, stylized presen- 
tations of Haitian folk dance and ritual fulfill the emotional needs of those 
who are nostalgic for Haiti. Ray Allen suggests that Africa n-Ameri-Mn gospel 
quartet performance helps ease the tensions of northern urban migration 



hy reminding partidp.inls of their shared ethnic and historical identity as 
southern bUick Christians. 

Related to the issue of ethnic identity maintenance is the selt-amscious 
revival of old country and rural musical styles that once appeared destined 
for extinction. On the tail of the commercial "folk revival of the 1950s and 
1960s, and encouraged by the nation's Bicentennial and Alex Haleys in- 
fluential nm'el Roof>, younger performers from diverse ethnic backgrounds 
in New York sought out and studied with older traditional musicians, 
painstakingly learning unique regional and community styles. The 
resurgence of interest in traditional Anglo-American, Irish, and Yiddish 
dance music, as discussed in the contributions by Simon Bronnor, Rebec- 
ca Miller, and 1 lenrv Sapoznik, exemplifies this spirit. Revitalization of oldei 
traditions within a specific ethnic group are often instigated by younger, 
relatively acculturated individuals who wish to foster pride among youngei 
community members. The Haitian folklore troupes consideied by Lois 
Wilcken, the Italian music. theater groups noted by Michael Schlesinger, 
and the Japanese tniko drumming and o-bou folk dance groups examined 
by Linda Fujio provide each community with a means of cultural preser- 
vation, as well as a vehicle to present their heritage to larger, multi-ethnic 

New York State has emer<^cd as a leading center for the 
study and prese ntation of traditional music. 

Tho ethnic and regional groups included in tliis issue were selected 
in p.irl Ihv.uiso of tlu'ir promiilLMue in tire st.ite, <rnd in pnrt beenuse they 
h.rve been tire subject of sehirlcrrly resccrrelr. t ire list is hy no nre.rns com- 
plete, and the serious study irf New York’s newer West Indian, South 
Airrerican, Arab, Kirrean, and Soxdet jewislr immigrant eomnrunities Iras 
only receirtls’ begun. New Yirrk State, Inrwevcr, Iras unciuestiirnabls’ enrerged 
as a leading center firr the study and presentatiirn of traditional music. 
Critical support for some irf the state's more fragile and least commercially 
viable musics has been pnrvided by the Rrlk Arts I’rogranr of the New York 
State Council inr the Arts, and the Firlk Arts Divisiinr irf the National hn- 
dowirreirt Iiir tire' Arts. Witir tlreir assistance, an iiriieasiirg number of 
regional and conrmunitv arts organizations Irave become involved in the 
documentation and presentation of the state's finest tradi"onal musicians 
through audio and video recordings, concerts and festivals, in addition, 
sevc I New York uniwrsities, including Columbia, City University of New 
York ^ Hunter College, and New York Unix'ersity now offer degrees in 
ethnoiirusieology. There are ethnonrusicologists and folklorists at many of 
the schools in the City and State University systenrs, as well as at private 
institulions of higher education. 

These developments bode well for the future of folk und tmditjoncil 
music in the Fmpire State. As long as New Yt^rk serves as a beacon for 
new immigrants, its musical resources will continue to flourish. The 
revitalization of older inu.sical practices, in ct>njunction with the on-going 
blending of folk and popular forms, will result in the survival of many 
venerable traditions as well as the emergence of new community-based 
vernacular styles. A firm commitment by scholars and arts coordinators 
to study and support these expressions, both old and new, should assure 
the health of New York's diverse musical tradititms ftir the foreseeable 
future. The following essays are ottered in the spirit cit this commitment. 


We wish to express our thanks to the many individuals who assisted 
in the preparation of this volume. Wo are especially indebted to Michael 
hicht for his as.sistance in developing the initial concept of this special issue, 
and to \’cw York Folklore liditor I’hil Stevens for overseeing the general 
editing. Special thanks to each of the authors, who found time in their 
busy professional schedules to contribute to this project. Our gratitude to 
Robert I3rowning of the World Music Institute, and to Laurie Russell, for 
their patient supporl. Finallv, we \vould like to acknowledge and thank 
the Folk Arts Program ot the New York State C\>uncil on the Arts ftir their 
generous grant supptirt that made this project ptissible. 



Veil. XIV, Nox. .1-4, 1988 

African-American Sacred Quartet Singing 
in New York City 


The Early Jubilee/Harmonizing Quartets 

The joyful sounds of sacred quartet harmony have resonated through 
the black neighborhoods of New York for nearly a hundred years. This is 
nut surprising, considering New York is home to one of the oldest urban 
African-American communities in the United States. In the late nineteenth 
century, as the city's commercial entertainment industry boomed, the best 
minstrel and vaudeville acts in the country flocked to New York. These 
acts often featured four- and five-mar tight harmony singing groups known 
as quartets. Their diverse repertoires included secular novelty songs, 
popular ballads, and parlor songs, as well as sacred spiritual and jubilee 
songs. In 1894, an outdoor extrav^aganza in New York City entitled "Black 
America" featured no less than sixty-three quartets, the best of which were 
praised for their exquisite harmonizing on plantation numbers and operatic 
selections (Fletcher 1954: 97). Groups such as the Old South Quartette and 
the Four Harmony Kings were among the best harmonizing quartets to 
grace the stages of New York's vaudeville theatres during the early decades 
of this century (Seroff 1982a :147; Funk 1985; Johnson 1940:36). 

As early as the 1870s, jubilee groups from southern black colleges such 
as Fisk University and Hampton Institute were appearing in New York City 
(Marsh, 1880: 24-39). On occasion the larger jubilee choirs were pared down 
to smaller, one-on-a-part quartets, that sang smooth renditions of spirituals 
and other black folk songs. Because members of these early black cc'llcge 
quartets were formally trained in the Western European choral tradition, 
their arrangements tended to emphasize clear diction, precise harmony, 
and relatively simple rhythmic patterns. At least one of the many college- 
based quartets that visited New York, the Utica Institute jubilee Singers, 
actually relocated in the city where they broadcast on WjZ of the National 
Broadcasting Company. During the 1920s, two other New York college- 
trained groups, the Southernaires and the Original Dixie Jubilee Singers 
(later known as the Eva Jessye Choir), popularized smooth, barber-shop 
and semi-classical arrangements of spirituals thnnigh regular radio broad- 
casts (Funk and Grendysa 1985; Southern 1983:411-415). 

] :j 


During the 1920s and 1930s, New York City's status as a media center 
attracted many of the South's finest church-based quartets who were not 
formally trained in European singing. Three of Virginia's most prominent 
groups, the Norfolk Jubilee/Jazz Quartet, the Peerless Four, and the Silver 
Leaf Quartet visited the city regularly during this period to record, broad- 
cast on radio, and sing at larger black churches. 

By 1940 Nezo York City zvas the leading center of jubilee 
quartet singing in the Northeast. 

The most influentir* and commercially successful quartet of the pre- 
VVar era, the Golden Ga e Quartet of Norfolk, Virginia, also made Neu' 
York City home during the late 1930s and earl\' 1940s. The group's nationally 
broadcast radio programs on CBS and their early recordings, on the 
Bluebird and RCA labels, helped shape the syncopated, rhythmic style of 
spiritual singing — often referred to as "jubilee" singing — that became 
popular among black quartets during the late-1930s.‘ The rhythmic and har- 
monic sophistication of early jazz and swing music, as well as a pulsing 
beat borrowed from Holiness church singers, contributed to the evolution 
of this lively jubilee style. The Golden Gates, and the numerous jubilee 
quartets they inspired, also performed popular swing and jazz numbers 
as well as sacred material (Heilbut 1985:43-44; Broughton 1985:62-64), 
By 1940, due primarily to the pervasive influence of residents groups 
like the Golden Gate Quartet and the Norfolk Jubilee^Ja/z quartet. New 
York City emerged as the leading northeastern center of jubilee quartet sing- 
ing. The best known groups enjoyed not only the support of black church 
audiences, but also that of select white listeners who purchased their 
records, followed their radio broadcasts, and occasionally attended their 
performances at clubs and concert halls. 

While professional groups such as the Southernaires, tne Golden 
Cates, and the Norfolk Jubilee/Jazz Quartet have been well documented, 
little is known about the city's non-commercial, communitv-lvsed quartets. 
As New York City's black population increased from large waves of the 
southern migrants during and following the first World War, the number 
of non-commercial spiritual and jubilee quartets grew. Review ng the Radio 
Features section of New York's principle buick newspaper, the Amstenimn 
News, reveals that during the late 1920s and early 1930s, "quartets" and 
"jubilee singers" recei\'ed a good deal of air-time. For example, radio listings 
during this period include not only programs by the nationally known Fisk 
Jubilee Singers and the Southernaires, but also performances by the 
Wandering Boys Spiritual Quartet, the Slow River Negro Quartet, the 

The Gohicft Gafc Quartet, c. 1940s. (Photo courtesi/ of Ray Funk) 


Metropolitan Foun the Eveready Jubilee Singers, the Excell jubilee Singers, 
the Eastern Star Quartet, and the Grand Central Red Caps Quartet. 
Presumably these latter groups consisted of local New York singers. A hand- 
ful of concert reviews suggests that at least some of these groups had for- 
mal European vocal training, and sang both religious ("spirituals") and 
secular ("folk" or "popular" songs) material - 

Due to the lack of written sources, the recollections of older quartet 
singers prove useful in filling in the historical record Thurman Ruth, a 
South Carolina native and the leader of Brooklyn's most celebrated jubilee 
quartet, the Selah jubilee Six, recalls that numerous local quartets were 
springing up in Harlem and Brooklyn by the late 1920s.'^ Groups such as 
the Grand Central Red Caps, the Eastern Star, the Excelsior Four, the Sunset 
jubilees, the Golden Crown, and the jubilee Stars sang regularly at Sun- 
day afternoon and evening programs held at small black churches. Such 
events commonly took on the format of song battles or contests, where 
two or more quartets would compete and be judged on the excellence of 
their harmony and articulatitm. 

Ruth and other elderly New York singers suggest that many early 
community-based quartets attempted to pattern themselves after the "for- 
mally" (European) trained college and other professional groups of the time. 
In keeping with this tradition, the local quartets tended to specialize in 
slow tempo "harmcjny" or 'Tiarbershop" singing that featured intricate four- 
part harmonies rendered in a relatively smc)oth, long-phrased fashitm with 
minimal (guitar or piano) or no instrumental accompaniment. These slower 
songs were particularly popular in song contests, as they afforded vocal 
groups the opportunity to showcase their harmonizing abilities. 

Bv the late 1930s many local grt)ups were adapting the quicker paced 
"jubilee" singing popularized by gi’oups like the Norfc’ilk jubilee/jazz Singers 
and the Golden Gates, The jubilee style of rhythmic spiritual singing was 
characterized by lightly syncopated rhythms; short-phrased, interlocking 
vocal parts; percussive vocal attack; spoken/sung narrations by the lead 
singer; and a well developed, moving bass line. It was the jubilee style 
that dominated the first substantial commercial recordings made by New 
York City based quartets — the Alphabetical Four in 1938, and Ruth's Selah 
in 1939. During live performances, however, the better groups presented 
a mix of slower harmonizing and snappier jubilee arrangements of tradi- 
tional spirituals, folk hymns, and church songs. The light, lilting style of 
the earlv New York City quartets was indelibly shaped by the Golden Gates, 
the Norfolks, and other quartets representing the Virginia tidewater 

In terms of overall performance style. New York's jubilee/harmoniz- 
ing quartets tended to emphasize smooth, complex harmony, clear diction 
and clean timbre (often reflecting the influence of European vocal train- 
ing), lilting rhythms, and mixed repertoires which included sacred and 




secular material. While the influences of southern, African-American tradi- 
tions were probabl)' evident in manv of the community-based groups — 
use of blues notes, growls, falsetto swoops, and some rhythmic syncopa- 
tion — by and large their singing rang with a light, airy sweetness that 
held great appeal to both black and white middle-class urban audiences. 
Further, these early groups stood relative!)’ stationar\; or "flat-footed" when 
they sang. Although Ivrics of humorous songs were occasKmally acted out, 
over-all body movement was, and the groups never engaged in 
the demonstratix’e running, dancing, and shouting associated with post- 
war gospel groups. First and foremost, the earl)’ jubilee harmonizing 
quartets were concerned with showing off their pi’ecise harmonies and vocal 

The Transition from Jubilee to Gospel Quartets 

During the late 1930s and early 1940s, sacred quartet singing in nor- 
thern and southern urban black communities underwent a noticeable 
stvlistic transition — one which resulted in the eventual emergence of post- 
war "gospel" groups and quartets."* The older jubilee, harmonizing quartets 
began absorbing the dri\'ing rhvthms and ecstatic worsh.^/ practices of 
"sanctified" Pentecostal and Holiness church music, the chanted \’ocaliza- 
lions and emotional fer\’or of black folk preachers, and the sounds of 
Thomas Dorsev s new gospel music — an urban st)ie that had become in- 
creasingK’ popular among soloists and church choirs since the eaiiv 1930s.^ 
The emerging gospel quartets featured a more pro...inent, impassioned 
lead vocal, often deli\'ered in a gruff, shouting or semi-chanted fashion; 
extended lead vocal improvisation; a basic antiphonal call and response 
structure between the lead and background x’ocalists* a movement of the 
background harmonv into a higher register through the inclusion of a high 
tenor part and the replacement of the bass \'ocal b)’ an electric bass guitar; 
and increased rhvthmic intensity emphasized bv bodv percussion and elec- 
tric guitandrum accompaniment. Their performances took on a distinctly 
evangelical tone, complete with exuberant testimonies, chanted preaching, 
and Spirit-induced mo\’ement and dance. 

In New York Citv, the transition from jubilee to gospel quartet singing 
began in the evirly 1940s as a response to a complex set of social/historical 
developments. Contact w'ith professional touring gospel singers and 
quartets was a significant factor. During the 1940s, quartet singing programs 
became larger and more commercial, often featuring out-of-town acts. Thur- 
man Ruth began booking professional groups into Harlem's Golden Gate 
Auditorium, as halls and auditoriums, along with larger churches, became 
frequent sites for programs. The communit\'-based groups turned out to 
see and hear influential professional groups like the Kings of Harmonv, 
the Soul Stirrers, and the Dixie 1 lummingbirds. These pioneering gospel 
men preached, testified, shouted, dove off stages, ran around churches, 
and employed numerous other vocal and dramatic techniques to excite their 


audiences. Local singers bought the latter s recordings and incorporated 
aspects of their music and movement into their own performance reper- 
tories. It was these early touring quartets, claims Ruth, that introduced the 
"hard gospel" style to New York City, which until the mid-l940s had been 
exclusively, in his words, a "jubilee town." 

During the early 1940s, Thomas Dorsey's new gospel music was being 
introduced to New York churches by two outstanding professional female 
soloists. Sister Ernestine Washington, and Clara "Georgia Peach" Hudmon. 
Veterans of the southern sanctified church tradition, both eventually settl- 
ed in New York where they became leading proponents of the emotional, 
Chicago-stvle gospel that Sallie Martin, Mahalia Jackson, and Roberta Mar- 
tin had pioneered during the 1930s. Unlike their Chicago counterparts, both 
Washington and Hudmon occasionally used male quartets as accompanists 
for recordings and live performances. William Kelly, who sang with one 
such quartet, the Harmonaires, recalls that Hudmon often stepped out from 
the group to walk amidst the audience where she sang, shouted, and ex- 
horted all present to feel the Spirit. The demonstrati\'e vocal and theatrical 
techniques employed by female gospel singers like Washington and Hud- 
mon undoubtedly serv'ed as models for male quartets, whose lead singers 
ev'entually emulated such performance practices. 

While the influence of early touring gospel quartets and professional 
female soloists was strong in New York, it must be kept in mind that both 
borrowed freely from the musical worship practices of the southern black 
folk churches, and their choreographed stage performances inevitably owed 
much to this source. In fact, stepped-up southern migration during the 
Great Depression and the Second World War Years coupled with the grow- 
ing influence of the urban Holiness-'Pcntecostal movement created social 
conditions favorable to the transition to hard gospel quartet singing in New 
York City and other northern urban centers." In response to the social 
upheaval and psychological trauma caused by the urban migration ex- 
perience, the southern black Protestants who poured into the rapidly 
deteriorating ghettos of Harlem and Bedford Stuyvesant sought out and 
perpetuated religious institutions and artistic expressions which allowed 
them to maintain their most important beliefs and practices. Dissatisfied 
with the imperson^ 1, formal nature of the established northern churches, 
they founded their own storefront places of worship where they could 
perpetuate the emotional, southern-style evangelical Christianity they 
grew up with. Unmoved by the staid. Europea n-style hymn singing favored 
in the middle-class churches, the recently arrived migrants turned back 
to the familiar spirituals, folk hymns and .sanctified music from their 
southern homeland, and eventually to Dorsey's new southern-derived 
go: 4 '>cl songs,'^ 

An analogous situation apparently developed with regard to quartet 
singing. Evidently the pre-War jubilee/harmoni/ing quartets lacked the 
rougher, more emotiv'e v'oeal delivery, the heavier rhythmic emphasis, and 


the intensely spiritual tone that characterized the worship of many southern 
folk churches. Gradually the expanding numbers of southern-born church- 
goers in New York City's black community became dissatisfied with this 
older approach to quartet performance. Audiences were no longer willing 
to simply sit and listen to good harmony singing; they wanted emotional 
involvement, spiritual sincerity, and above all, to "have church" the way 
they did on Sundav mornings "back home" in the South. The model for 
such demonstrative performance was readily available in the form or the 
driving music, the emotional preaching, the chanted testifying, and the 
Spirit-induced dance commcMT to the Sanctified, Holiness, and other small, 
evangelical Baptist and Methodist churches that were mushrooming in 
Brooklyn and Harlem by the 1930s. While the touring commercial groups 
may be credited with initially introducing the more emotional gospel style 
to many local New York quartets, the latter inevitably drew on the musical 
resources of the folk church in shaping their own vernacular styles. These 
early Ccimmunity-based gospel quartets, like their professional counterparts, 
eventually became mc)re concerned w'ith "shouting the church," with the 
emotional fervor of the Holv Spirit than in outclassing their competitc)rs 
with spectacular harmc)nv. 

Finally, a healthy war-time economy coup)led w'ith a growing sense of 
professionalism among local quartet singers spuned on the transition to 
"iiard" gospel quartet singing in New York City. By the time of the second 
World War, the city's rapidly expanding southern, black, working class 
population demanded (and could pay for) popular entertainment to fill 
periods of leisure time created by their neu' urban industrial lifestyle. The 
proliferation of semi-professional and professional sacred quartet singing 
during this time was a response to this need. But, as increasing numbers 
of quartets were paid for their ser\dces — including the better local per- 
formers who sang on weekends but who did not tour fulltime — singers 
came under pressure to produce more polished, "professional" perfor- 
mances that were artistically spiritually pleasing to their paving 
clientele. Rather than falling back on older models of professional quartet 
performance — the jubilee and minstrel quartets whose smooth harmonies 
pleased white secular as well as black church audiences — the emerging 
gospel quartets turned to a more southern, church derived style. This is 
not surprising, cemsidering the quartets were now singing to audiences 
consisting almo . exclusively of rural, African-American migrants who were 
intimately fam 'ar with such traditional expressions from their earlier 
southern church experiences. The incorporation of testirnemv, preaching, 
demonstrative vocal styles, body percussion and movement, and Spirit 
possession into quartet performance, struck an enthusiastic chord with 
listeners who wished to maintain a sense c^f southern identity and 
"downhome" religion in their new urban home. Elements of professional 
showmanship and folk religion were skillfully intertwined by earlv gospel 
quartets in the crealkm of a slick, urban form of popular entertainment 


that was firmly rooted in rural southern folk music and worship practices. 
Their performances undoubtedly served to ease the tensions caused by 

Charlie Storey and the All Stars, 1945. Photo: Diaz & Ro^^ers. 

migration and urbanization, as they afforded participants the opportuni- 
ty to engage in an art form that is simultaneously professionaburban and 
downho me/ rural. 

The emergence of gospel quartets and the subsequent decline of the 
jubilee/harmonizing style among New York City singers was a gradual pro- 



cess. The popularity of professional resident jubilee groups like the Golden 
Gates and the Norfolk Jubilee/Jazz Singers undoubtedly contributed to the 
tenacity of the jubilee style among local New York quartets. Members of 
the Golden Gate Quartet continued to record and broadcast their magnifi- 
cent jubilee style singing throughout the 1940s, before eventually ex- 
patriating to Europe where they are based today. Ruth's Selah Jubilee Six 
also maintained a basic jubilee style, although they did incorporate some 
gospel compositions into their repertoire, and their repetitive background 
phrasing on slower songs certainly suggests some gospel influence. The 
group continued to record and tour during the 1940s, eventuallv resurfac- 
ing in New York in the 1950s to cut several rhythm and blues tunes under 
the name The Larks. 

Elements of professional shozvmanship and folk religion 
were skillfully intertwined. 

During World War II, the military draft split up some of New York's 
older groups, including Alton Griffin's Golden Crown. Others, such as 
the Eastern Star and the Excelsiors continued to sing in the local churches, 
presumably maintaining their older jubilee'harmonizing style. The Jubilee 
Stars of Brooklyn recorded several jubilee sides on the Haven label in 1947 
before disbanding. The Sunset Jubilees made a number of jubilee style 
recordings in the later 1940s, and eventually gravitated toward the more 
gospel inflected sound they have today. The Sunsets, like many sacred 
quartets of this period, maintained both jubilee and gospel style songs in 
their active repertoires. Ev'entually, ho\\'c\'er, most groups either adopted 
elements of the new gospel style, or faded from the scene, replaced by 
younger exponents of the "hard" gospel quartet style that would dominate 
the post-War years. 

By the 1950s, gospel style quartet singing was firmly entrenched in New' 
York City. Although New York never produced a quartet of the magnitude 
of Chicago's Soul Stirrers or Philadelphia's Dixie Hummingbirds, a number 
of noteworthy groups emerged. The Harlem-based Skylight Singers, who 
began as a jubilee quartet in the early 1940s, recorded several classic hard 
gospel pieces for Vee Jay label in the 1950s and enjoyed a successful tour- 
ing career. The Mighty Gospel Giants, who recorded on the Tuxedo label 
in 1956, became one of Brooklyn's stellar quartets. The Brooklyn All Stars, 
a group Charlie Storey sang with in the early 1950s, began touring as pro- 
fessionals shortly after making some excellent recordings for Peacock in 
1958. The Brooklyn Skyw'ays, who remain one of New' York's most respected 
quartets, were organized in the late 1950s. In addition, countless other 
quartets and small groups were formed during the post-War years, most 
of w'hom sang local!}' and never recorded. 

9 ‘I 

L , 


Sacred Quartet Singing in the '80s 

New York City, currently home to the largest and mt^st diverse African- 
American population in the United States (1.7 million), continues to boast 
a thriving gospel scene. Every weekend hundreds of choirs, quartets, and 
soloists appear churches and community centers throughout New York 
City's black neighborhoods of Harlem, Bedford Stuyvesant, [amaica, and 
the South Bronx. While choirs and soloists often provide musical interludes 
during Sunday morning church services, gospel groups and quartets per- 
form at specially designated Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon 
gatherings known as "gospel programs" or "gospel anni\'ersaries" Smaller 
gospel programs, often held in storefront churches, feature three or four 
gospel quartest. Larger programs and anniversaries held in larger church- 
es, schools, and theaters present up to a dozen groups, often including 
several professional out-of-town acts. Quartets usually sing gratis at the 
smaller programs, donating funds raised through a "free will offering" back 
to the sponsoring church, or to some worthy cause. Better known quartets 
are paid to perform at the larger programs where admission is bv pre-paid 
ticket. Their compensation is usually minimal, and is deposited in a group 
fund to cover transportation, equipment, and uniform expenses. 

The smaller, community-based gospel programs take on many of the 
trappings of a Sunday morning service. Both, for example, begin with a 
"devotional ser\'ice" consisting of congregational singing, prayer, a scrip- 
ture reading, and a period of personal testimony. This dev'otional service 
is an essential component of tlie gospel |:rogram, as it serves to set a 
spiritual tone to the overall gathering by reminding listeners they are "here 
to have church" rather than to simply "see a show." While the Sunday mor- 
ning service prticeeds with the preacher talking center stage, in the gospel 
program it is the singers who deliver Cod's message through sung and 
chanted words during the main "song ser\’ice" segment of the event. 

During a typical song service, the atmosphere is extremely competitive, 
as each quartet is delegated a performance slot of approximately fifteen 
minutes. Althtiugh groups no longer engage in official "song battles" as 
they did in the past, mtisl readily admit they are attempting tti out-sing 
their competitors, l^^ad singers are expected to be able to "work" their con- 
gregations in order to "build the spiritual feeling." They accomplish this 
through a number of performance strategic, including the prefacing of 
songs with lengthy chanted narratives and perstmal testimonies; shifting 
from a sung to a chanted/preached vocal deli\er\' during impro\'isorv 
"drive" (^r "gospel" sections of songs; switching lead singers in, 
or having two lead singers improvise together in a call-and-response 
fashion; and engaging in various dramatic gestures and movements such 
as acting out song lyrics or prancing up and dt)wn the aisles, 

While such expressive behaviors are mt)st certainly meant to 
demonstrate artistic competence and showmanship, the\' ultimately create 
an emotionally charged atmosphere which is conduci\'e tt) bringing on the 


experience of the Holy Spirit.*” During a particularly moving performance, 
singers and congregation membeis may become overcome by the power 
of the Holy Ghost, and enter into states of hyper-arousal in which they 
shout, cry, chant in prophetic speech, run through the audience, or holy 
dance. Some participants may actually re-experience the feeling of their 
original conversion experience, while others simply rejoice in the im- 
mediacy of the Almighty's presence (see also Allen 1987b; and Marks 1982). 

The emotionally charged atmosphere of a vigorous gospel 
performance can bring on possession by the Holy Spirit. 

In its ritualized frame, community-based gospel music becomes more 
than simply Sunday afternoon entertainment. Through song, chanted 
testimony, and the Spirit-induced shout, gospel performance serves the 
dual role of reaffirming the faith of believers while bringing the Christian 
message to unsaved, potential converts. Moreover, such performances ex- 
press symbolically a sense of temporal continuity between the past, pre- 
sent, and future experiences of African-American Christians. Song and 
narrative encourage believers to honor their southern heritage and 
ancestors, to experience the liberating power of the Holy Ghost in the im- 
mediate present, and to anticipate a glorious future in heaven. A sense 
of collective identity as southern black Christians is clearly reinforced. 

An interesting array of styles is represented at a typical gospel pro- 
gram. Most quartets sing in the straight-ahead, hard gospel fashion with 
electric guitar, bass, keyboard, and drum accompaniment. Groups con- 
sisting of middle-aged, southern-born singers such as the Brooklyn 
Skyways, the Weary land Gospel Singers of Corona, Big Nick and the 
Gospel Heavyweights of New York, and the Gospel Crowns and the Sons 
of David of Brooklyn exemplify this post-War quartet sound. However, a 
number of the younger New York-born singers have become increasingly 
drawn to the so-called "contemporary gospel" sound popularized by com- 
mercial stars like A1 Green, Andrae Crouch, and the Winans. Such con- 
temporary singers have adopted a smoother approach to vocal and 
instrumental shadings, use richly textured, synthesizer-tinged harmonic 
accompaniments, and lack the fiery testimonies and evangelical tone of 
the older hard gospel groups (Boyer 1985). But of the city's more 
popular young quartets, such as the Spiritual Voices and the Golden Sons 
of Brooklyn, and the Ecstatistics of the Bronx, take pride in their ability 
to sing both the hard and contemporary gospel styles, a versatility which 
allows them to reach congregations of all ages. And finally, a diminishing 
number of older quartets including The No Name Gospel Singers and 
pre-war jubilee/ harmonizing styles that are rarely heard on commercial 
recordings or radio. 



The No-Name Gospel Singers of Brookh/Or perfonnhis^ in \\’aslii}i\iUm Square 
Clunrii. New York City, 1986. Photo: Ray Allen. 

The Heavenly Tones, in Brooklyn, 1986. Photo: Ray Allen. 

l ioavenly Tones of Brooklyn, the Faithful I larmoni/ers of St. Albans, and 
the Golden jubilees of Jamaica, continue to sing in the more traditional, 


While the commercial gospel industry is presently dominated by 
soloists, choirs, and a handful of nationally known quartets, community- 
based quartet singing continues to play a vital role in New York City's 
African-American church community, and in others like it throughout the 
United States. Local gospel quartets raise money for financially strapped 
churches and charitable causes, and attract new members for small, strug- 
gling churches. But perhaps most importantly, these groups provide their 
listeners with aesthetic pleasure, spiritual uplift, and a sense of shared 
ethnic and historical identit\' as southern black Cliristians. 

1 l»»d.i\ Ihf ' |uhik‘t‘ ' is used ‘ii rdc’iviu f to tht* luopiiU’d. "rln lhmic 

spiriUiiil stvli- «>l sin^in^ pupuliUi/t‘d b\ ^,r»nips like Ihc Cluldiii (liiU- Qiuirtct in ihr 

kili*i-i‘'>.'^0s Cuntijsion .uisfs Lvc.uisf tlu- pri‘-mu hiirmnni/in^ qu.irU'ts ,uid thf oarlior colli'p' 
prtuips (sikIi .is Uu‘ k'lsk kibilc’c* sin^c'rs) ,ilsu rc-tc*rivd \o tlunisoKc's ,is ‘■pibikr” >;r(nips While 
llu* l.iUiT U'luit'd tm*mphiisi/f lom I iimpt-.m h.unKink's ,uid simpk' rh\lhnis. !lu' InrnuT 
introdiUi’d sviuop.itfd rln thnis t<» tjUiirli'l stn^in^. 

2 I nr ‘'Vimpk*. m2 tVMOW ol tlu* Cir.ind C i-ntrul Kud C.ips pr.iisod iho )j;nuip tor its tuilsi.indin}; 
nuisiitil iibililN" iind ori^innl iirriin^omonts ot ‘spirituals, old southern mekidies, and folk songs, 
and ocfasional popular tunes" See the Atn^tiniain .Wns (juK' n, N7.2), p. H. 

^ I he bulk ot the intormation on \'eu V>rk‘s » ommunite-based lubilee and harmonizing quartets 
IS'd on interview s u iib, oldt-r \eu >oik Singi-rs including I hurman kuth ol the '^I'lah lubilee 
Si\. .Alton Ciritim ol the ( toklen L row n. C harlie Storev (H the lubilee '^lai s (and later the Hrooklvn 
All Stars). S.mi .Abrahams ot the Sk\ lighl 'lingers, C. lit ton lohnson ol the Cjokien lubilees, and 
William Kellv ot the Sunset luhilees 

■\ Ihiiiiuan Ruth oigaiii/ed membi’is ol HiookI\ n‘s M Mark Holiness thuiih into a \o»al group 
called the Sekih lubilee S|\ m N27 The group peiTorined almost e\tkisivelv in New V>rk CTtv 
churches until the earlv I'^MOs when thc-v began touring and smging regul.uTv on radio WPl'F 
in Raleigh. \'C See Srmtl ( hm2b). 

^ 1 \idence suggests (hat Hirivungham, H.illas, I lousum. and epungu boaste’d the earliest inl'luen- 
tial gospel quarters. In these cities groups like the lamocis Hliio lav Singers, ihe Scutl Stirrers, 
.md the Kings of I larmon\' were experimenting with ‘hard ' g,ospi i leehnic|iies diinne, the late 
PFT()s. See SeroM ilWHS; 42-4.T) and Heilbut Kir intormation on the )ubik e 

to gc)spe) transition sc-e Riibman (KtHll). Tallmadg.c- (Wbl), and h.irneH (IdHS). 

fi lor Itirlher hisUtrical background on the role o| sancTilicd music and the- c'ontributiein c»f com- 
posers such as Phomas Dursev tci the rise ot gospel music sc-e I leilbiit (HSs ivww, 2k W 173-ISh), 
,md !.e\ine(h>77 174 lS‘->) 

7 between l^tt) and PMO, \'c-w Virk C it\ s black popul.ition rose Irom T27,7(th to 4NH,444 - an in- 
c rcaseol approximatelv 4l)‘’n. Stc-ppecl-up migr.ition between I'Ut) and PRl increasecl the popula- 
tion Irom 4^S.-144 to 727‘-'77 .>n increase o| nc'arlv M)'’n. Figures from NciC SkJ/c 0 ’Msiis, 


S Foi more on the rise ol storcTionl Huirchcs and the ol older, -.ciuthcTn-slvle worship and 
music pr.u t lees among low er c ks-^. scuithern black migrants in mirthern urban areas. sc*e I'ra/ier 
( l'/o<v ^S-Ml); Pans ( |U,H2: 2S-27), .md Ma\s and Nicholson (bHA: '>41 lA). 

Ihe desciiptwc* data presented in this section is diawn Irc^n lield rcseaich condcictcxi by lhe»icithor 
over a thrc*e vc*ar pc*riod bi'ginning in the* summer ol NsA. I he performances described arc- tvpical, 
liowc-\ii, ol gospel pro);ranis Itoni the Ih^Hs up to Ihc- juesent (with the e\ception ol llu- d.ila 
loncerning "c onlemporai ' gospc-l c|uarlc*t singing, which is a more- rc\enl phenomenon). I-or 
lurther discussion ol gospel quariel singing in NVw Vtrk CTtv see Allen (lM87a). 

Ill Worth noting is the tact that some ot the older members ctl the Alrican-American church com- 
munitv .ireollen critical of c|iiartels who ou-r-indulge in drtimaiic technic|ues such <is running, 
dancing, pre-achmg. pulling off jackets and ties, and so kirth Such beha\ ior inav be dismissed 
as "downing" and "shcwvboating." Quartets making excessive use of these practices run the risk 
ol being accused ol putting cm a 'show" rather than singing under the influence of the Holy 
Spirit Ihe line line tliat separates those who trulv "smg in the Spirit!" from those who simply 


sing lor a show " letlcsts a ck-ep-seated sairc-d sc-ciilar tension in the commiinilv 




ki-:fhke\ces cited 

Alk*n. R.n 

IWa Sin>;inj; in the Spirit: An Ethnography ol C'.t^spel Perft^rmame in New \ork City's Afrie«in 
Amerkiin Church Community Ph.D. Dissertalum, University of IVnnsylvaiiia. 1^87. 
l^WTb Gospel Quartet Performance and Ritual in New Virk City's African-American Church Conv 
rnunitv. Urban Resources 4, pp. 13-18. 

Boyer. I lorace 

A Comparative Analysis of Traditional and Con tern pt^rary Gospel Music, /m Irene Jackson, 
ed.. More Than Dancing; Essays in AfrcvAmerican Music and Musicians. Westport, CT: 
Greenwood Press, pp. 127-145. 

Broughton. Viv 

1^85 Black Gospel. Poole, Dorset: B Ian lord Press. 

1*1 etc her. Tom 

|o44 One Hundred ^ears of the Negro in Sht»u Business. New Virk. BurdgeCo 
Fra/ier Franklin 

l%n The Negro Church in America. New ^brk: Schocken Books, 
l unk, Rav 

h>84 Nv)rlolk jubilee Quartet. Liner Ni^tes to Heritage I.P »HT 310 
Funk. Ray and Peter Cirendysa 

The St»uthernaires. ( ,oldniine. pp. h. 24. 

I lei I but. .-\nthony 

hW4 The Gospel Sound New York: .\iuhor Hooks, 
lohnson. lames Weldon and Rosemond lohnson 

l‘>4il The Hook ot .American Spirituals. N'ev% V)rk; \ 'iking Press. 

I .e\ine, Lu\ rence 

hC7 Black Culture and Black C onsi lousness. New >ork- cXford L'nnersitv Press, 

I ornell Kip 

HSS Happv in the Service of The Hird; Afro-.An.erican C.ospel Quartets in Memphis Lrbana- 
Universit\ ot Illinois Press. 

Miirks. Morton 

F'S2 Viu Can t Sing Unless You're Sa\ed: KeliN ing theC all in Gospel Music. h\ Simon C*>ttenberg. 
fd , .African Religious (.;roups and Beliets Cupertino. CA; I'olklite Institute, pp 305-331. 
Marsn 1 H. 

IS8U The Sior\ ut the luhilee Singers. Boston' Houghton. Osgood, and Co 
Ma\s. Bt‘n|amin and joseph Nicholson 
i‘L33 I he Negro's Church in America. 

Pan*- Arthur 

|os2 Black ‘*entecostalism Amherst Uni\ersi[y ot Massachusetts iVess 
Ruhman. kerni 

l*iso 1 f'Mii luhili t‘ to ( .i^'.pe! m Bl.u k Quarti‘t Singing M A. 1 hesis L ni\ ersitv ot North t arolin.i 
^eroU. 1 \»ug 

hiS5 On the Batlietield- Gospel Quartets in letferson Count\. Alabama /m Geotfrev 1 lavdon and 
Dennis Marks, eds.. Repercussums: A Celebration ot .Atrican-.American Music. Sussex, (iix’at 
Britain R F. Acttird, pp. 30- .53 

h>82a Polk Miller and the Old South Quartet |ohn Edwards Memorial QuarterK IS 
|ng2h The Whole Truth .About T. Ruth. Whiske\ Women, and . C 
Southern. I ileen 

btS3 The .Musk of BLu k .Americans .A Histi^rv. New ^ork W \V Norton 
lallmadge William 

HSl Jubilee to C.ospel: A Selection of Commercially Rectirded Black Religious Music. l‘^21-H5.3. 
Finer notes U> John I'd wards Memorial I'oundatum I P »10K 


Nev\ 'lork ( .rassi'viots ( iospel 1 he Sai red BLu k Quartet Iradilion ( JoKil \ illage t A'M 2tJh. btK8 
I I' and booklet b\ Rav .Mien, teaturmg cuts b\ C hariie storev and the Ml Stars, the No 
Name Gospel Smgers. the laithlul Harmoni/ers, the Cjolden jubilees and the I lea\enl\ 

N'orlv»lk lubilee Quartet I leritage 1 H 3 It), h)85 I P and liner notes by Ray Funk, featuring re-issues 
o[ the Nortolks' classic lubilee recordings made between l‘)27 and H48. 
lubilee to Gospel A Selection ol Commerciallv Rea>rded Black Religious Music. 1*^21-1'L3K. juhn T.d- 
wards Memorial Foundation I.P "lOH, IWl, Album and booklet by William Tallmadge. featur- 
ing cuts bv the Golden C^ate Quartet. Ruth's Selah jubilee Six. the .Alphabetical Four, and 

1 allw rs and Sons Spirit leel Records U)t)t)F I‘W> I.P and liner notes b\' lonv Heilbut. featuring cuts 
bv the Soul Stirrers, the Blind Bovs ol Mississippi, and the Sensational Nigtit'ngales. 



Birmingham Quartet Anthology. Chanka l-anka CL 144,001 tX12. 1980. LPand bov>klet hy Oi>ug beroff, 
featuring cuts by Alabama's greatest early quartets including the Famous Blue Jay Singers 
and the Kings of Harmony. 

Lord I Want to Be A* Christian; Lillie Wonder Boy and the Fvciting Spiritual Voices. Dodv 744, circa 
1984. l.l’ featuring one of Brooklyn's hottest young gospel quartets. 



Val. Xl\', Nos. .^-4, 19HH 

The Anglo-American Fiddle Tradition 
in New York State 


British settlers spread their fondness for dancing to the accompani- 
ment of the fiddle across the North American continent, A single fiddler 
could rouse a whole community, even in the back reaches of the colonies. 
The fiddle helped to carry Old World culture across the new nation. With 
his old familiar tunes and a style that recalled the mother country, the 
American country fiddler could lead dances, lighten the load at work bees, 
delight the voung, and raise conversation at the village crossroads. Por- 
table and capable of a rich piercing sound, the fiddle was the common 
backdrop for North American work and play. 

New Hnglanders coming to New York State in great numbers during 
the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries brought their fiddle-tune 
tradition with them. In one respect the New Englanders wht) mcjved to 
New York outdid their British cousins. Dancing became even more the rage 
in New England than in Old. Among the favorite dances were jigs, reels, 
contra dances, cotillions (forerunner of the square dance), quadrilles, 
minuets, and hornpipes. Commonly relying on the storehouse of British 
tradition, many of the old tunes for the dances w'ere con\'erted to the new 
national spirit. In 1807, for example, A ScUrtion of Cotillions & Coinitiy-Daiiccs 
c)ffered the "Federal Cotillion" along with the old "Money Musk." That same 
year, Coilcctioii of the Most Cclchratcii Fi^uves of Cotillunis (wd Coiitro Dances 
included "Humors of Boston," "Jefferson and Liberty," "American Fair," 
"Democratic Rage," and "Independence." 

Still, the old British Isles tunes persisted. One reason for this was that 
the familiarity of the tunes helped to signal the dances. Another was the 
repetition of the short tunes to accompany dances. Both dancers and musi- 
cians easily remembered the tunes and called for them at dances. The 
shared repertoire also lent itself to communal music-making at social gather- 
ings where many instruments could be heard joining in unison on a folk 

The British fiddle tune was almost free of syncopation; notes were brief 
and distinct. The melod\' had a clear, lilting quality. Many listeners have 
also noted the "endless'" character of the old fiddle tunes; the last strains 



Hull’s Victory 

Mellie Dunham. 1926 

iL; ctef r 


— Om f — ? — r — f~ 


f—f — ^ f f — [ 


rAq^-f- r 

^ ^ ji i i 


J>^f f f r 

# # 


^'tr ' 

r.<r f f 

Varudon on A Pan 

■jil, f- 

f — f — j — 

iaT 1— f P^il 

ffr. r~r . 


f — 


# — ^-1^ 

% J 

-: ^ 5 -^ 

Figure I. 

'7/////S Vicforif." phn/cii In/ Miilic Dinthii}}} on fiddle. Recorded on Victor 4DIM 
New York Citi/, 19 jiuiuan/ 1926. Dnn/mni ?rr?s o fiddler fro})i Maiiie who played 
with ciiauiLteri>tic New England sfi///j/x>. 






Figure 2. 

"Dance of the HiV-wmkers" b\f W'illiatu Sydiity Moinit, 1845. Painted from a scene 
near Setauket, NY. (The Museiuns at Stony Brook.) 

lead easily to the repetition of the tune. Typically, the tune has two parts 
(A and B), which are structured in the tune as AABB. In New England 
and New York, quadrilles and jigs in 6 8 time, along with hornpipes and 
reels in 4 4 time are especially comnion. The repertoire is tvpicallv diverse, 
but attempts to find ''New' Yorks fa\'orite tunes" have revealed some recur- 
rent preferences from the font of Anglo-American tradition (Osborne 1952: 
213-15; Bronner 1987). Although names for tunes are notorious variable, 
they offer an idea of the traditional Anglo-American fiddle-tune repertoire. 
Among the hornpipes, one commonly hears Durang's, Sailor's, Fisher's, 
Lamplighter's, Hull's Victory and Rickett's; among the reels, one hears 
McLeod's, Opera, Virginia, and Chicken; among the quadrilles and jigs, 
there are Hirrv O'Gaff, Haste to the Wedding, Irish Washeru’oman, and 
Blackberry. Other standards of the fiddle-tune repertoire include Soldier's 
Joy, Turkey in the Straw, Devil's Dream, Girl I Left Behind Me, Money 
Musk, Arkansas Traveler, Wilson's Clog, Rakes of Mallow, Wind that Shakes 
the Barley, Buffalo Gals, Black Cat, Flop-Eared Mule, and Wake Up Susan. 

Although many of the tunes u.sed in -\merica came from British 
sources, American musicians did put their own stylistic stamp on them. 
American performances tended to take away the ornamentation common 



to the British originals. Americans also regularized the beat and gave the 
music a bounciness in place of the drones common in many British tunes. 
In the numerous repetitions of the tune, with perhaps slight variations 
around the melody in each strain, fiddlers drew praise for their precision 
and consistency. The style lent itself to the demands of performing coun- 
try dances through a long winter's night and to duets with a fife or another 
fiddle. And while repetition and refinement rather than improvisation and 
elaboration became watchwords of the Anglo-American aesthetic, musi- 
cians picked up new tunes and retitled old ones, many of which took a 
poke at the British. A prominent example is "Hull's Victory," probably 
modeled after an English drinking song and Scottish dance tune, honor- 
ing the American sea victory in 1812 off the coast of Nova Scotia (see Fig. 1). 

American musicians put their own stylistic stamp on the 
British originals. 

The fiddlers, mostly men, often performed alone (see Fig. 2). The fid- 
dler would be called in especially when a house dance occurred. Sometinies 
called a kitchen "junket," "whang," or "hop," the dance was held in a farm 
family's home. The fiddler was called on to play and shout calls. To lead 
the dancers, the fiddler's style usually required a strong rhythm, which 
came through b\- heavy bowing. Novelist Hamlin Garland gives an excellent 
account of hearing dance music from New York during his boyhood in the 

At this dance 1 heard, for the first time, the local professional 
fiddler, old Daddy Fairbanks. His queer "Calls" and his "York 
State" accent filled us all with delight. "A//i/ man left," "Chassay 
by vour pardners," "Dozv-t/u" w'ere some of the phrases he used 
as he pla\'ed Honest John and Haste to the Wedding. At times he 
sang his calls in a high nasal chant, "First lady lead to the ny///, 
deedle, deedle dum-dum -- ^eut fciller after — dally-deedle-do- 
do three hands round" — and every bod)' laughed w'ith frank 
enjoyment of his words and actions (Garland 1917: 94). 

The sounds of Yorker fiddlers like Daddy Fairbanks are mostly lost in 
the undocumented everyday round of life in communities, but accounts 
of some exceptional nineteenth-century fiddlers went beyond local reputa- 
tions. Around Delhi, New York, well into the Catskills, Alva Belcher's fame 
lives on in a reel bearing his name. Born in 1819, Belcher until his death 
in 1900, was in the words of a newspaper account from the 1920s, "an at- 
traction that was sure to draw a crowd" (Anonymous 1926: 1). Folk music 
collector Sam Fskin recorded a version of "Belcher's Reel" from Wordell 


(A tuniof) 

J= 126 

Belcher’s Reel 

WordeUMmrtm, 1948 

0 0 

^ rjijn 1=^ 

1 ^ 
J~R r r 

■ if F f F 

— f — r "T r f ft \f f f 

Figure 3. 

"Belcher's Reel" played by Wonlell Martin on fiddle. Recorded by Sam Eskin, Prafts- 
viih\ Greene County, 1948. 

Martin of Prattsville, Greene County, in 1948. A \-ariant of the British Isles 
tune "Masons Apron/' the tune was probably attached to Belcher because 
of the difficulty of the tune's execution (sec Fig. 3). In imitation of Belcher, 
Martin plays the many quick notes of the tune without slurs, a technique 
that requires fast separate bows aemss the strings. 

The best documentation of the old tradition comes to us thmugh the 
amimercial recordings of John McDermott (1869-1957) from Cortland (Fig. 
4). McDermott owed much of his repertoire to the older "Happy" Bill 
Daniels (1853-1923) of Varna. By 1926 McDermott had achie\*ed the title of 
State Fiddle Champion and was already claiming the world championship. 
As one resident of Cortland remembered, 

John played by ear. He didn't improvise at all and he 
remembered all his tunes — he had instant recall. He plaved 
things like "Devil's Dream, "Turkey in the Straw," "Money 
Musk," "Irish Washerwoman," "Tips from the Bough" — a 
quadrille, "Chicken Reel," "Lmcers," "Soldier's joy." He had a 
rhythmic sound playing short, clean notes. He had the bow 
quite a ways up and held his fiddle under his chin. 

Just before the end of 1926, McDermott headed for New York City to 
record commercial! v for Brunswick. Listed on the label as a "Pioneer Fid- 


Figure 4. 

jolni McDermott, i\ 1940. (Cortland Comity hli^torical Society.) 

dier and Caller/' McDermott recorded "Happy Bill Daniels Quadrille" on 
two sides, and "Virginia Reel Medley" on two sides. His Virginia Reel 
medley includes two traditional Anglo-American fiddle tunes, "Miss 
McLeod's Reel" and "The Girl I LxTt Behind Me." As was often the custom, 
the title that McDermott chose for the medley refers to the dance rather 
than the tunes used. In the medley McDermott shows his range of tradi- 
tion and simultaneously the sources that gave life to his performance of 
old-time music. His fiddling bounces out a sure but light beat. Like most 
other New York and New England folk fiddlers, McDermott uses long and 
short bowing strokes to punch out an uncluttered and unhurried melody. 
McDermott's emphasis on rhythm is distinctive as is his "shuffle" that 
shows off his dexterity on the bow. The shuffle is a version of a tune known 
early in the nineteenth century in Scotland and America as "Fairy Dance." 

The light, separate bowing typical of most northern fiddlers can be 
heard when the fiddler added accompaniment, which became more stan- 
dard toward the end of the nineteenth century (see Fig. 5). The preferred 
accompaniment was the piano. Many Yorker parlors had pianos for fami- 
ly singing, but on Saturday night, they provided the steady, on-the-beat 
rhythm the fiddler demanded. The accordion, and occasionally the har- 
monica or "mouth organ," were brought along when no piano was available. 
The house dances were, as fiddler William Dingier recalled, "a communi- 
ty affair." 


Figure 5. 

Old-time strin<^ band from Otsego Count}/, NY. Photo In/ P. Tclfcr, c. 1900 (New 
York State Historical Association). 

Word would pass from mouth to mouth. They had meetings 
up here in the country where the farmers help each other. 
They'd gather hay, harvesting corn — they'd have parties in that. 
If a man wanted to fill his silo with corn, there'd be five, six, 
half-a-dozen different farmers come help bring the corn in, put 
it in the cutter, it was a day's work. They'd talk to each other, 
then thev^'d go home and figure out a night to have a party — 
they were sociable in that manner. They usually set up in the 
front of the house — dining room and parlor about winter time. 
They usually had just a violin or possibly a piano or accordion. 
1 he fiddler usually done the prompting. There were usually 
just one or two sets in one room. They had usually a midnight 
snack — pretty good feed. It was mostly standard dances. There 
were also clogs; once in a while you'd get a Virginia Reel, I'd 
play 'Turkey in the Straw," "Devil's Dream," "Oh, Those Golden 
Slippers," "Money Musk" — all those.^ 

During the early twentieth century, especially when the tou'ns began 
swelling with rural migrants, the old-time fiddling sound could be heard 




increasingly in dance halls. The larger crowds demanded a bigger sound. 
Old-time bands added tenor banjoes, guitars, and basses to the fiddles. 
Woodhulls Old Tyme Masters from Elmira, probably the best known band 
in New York State, was composed of the elder Fred Woodhull, a carryover 
from the old house-dance days, and his sons Floyd on accordion, Herb 
on tenor guitar, and John Woodhull on guitar (Fig, 6). Fred had taught his 
sons the old Anglo-American tunes such as Soldier's Joy and Irish Washer- 
woman and to bring the music up to date, the sons adapted new popular 
songs to square dance calls. During the 1940s, the band -ecorded many 
discs for Victor Records. Other well-known bands, typically with family 
connections, such as Ott's Woodchoppers from Ithaca and the Hornellsville 
Hillbillies from Hornell, crisscrossed the state still featuring the Anglo- 
American fiddle-tune tradition. Underscoring the changes occurring in 
twentieth-century New York State, the bands often dressed in hillbilly garb 
when performing the old tunes. The tunes were proudly handed down 
from the parents and grandparents of these musicians, but in the eyes of 
a modern age the tunes were increasingly cast as rustic and "old-time." 

Figure 6. 

Woodhuirs Old Masters, 1939. Left to rf^ht: Herb Woodhull, ]oiw Tn^^i^art, 
lohu Woodhull, Fred Woodhull, Floyd Woodhull. (Courtesi/ Floi/d Woodhull.) 



Meanwhile the lone fiddler was being hailed in state and county fairs 
and minstrel shows. The State Fair in Syracuse annually held a fiddle con- 
test which received wide attention. In 192Z the New York Times reported 
that "'John McDermott of Cortland, well known throughout the state as 
an old-time fiddler with his playing of 'Money Musk' and 'Fiddler in the 
Straw'' will be one of the judges." McDermott's duties w'ere substantial, 
because he had to choose among at least twenty-one fiddlers from "all sec- 
tions of the state." The list would probably grow, organizers thought, and 
they contemplated restricting contestants to those over the age of sixty. Set- 
ting the backdrop for the contest w'as a log cabin that reminded fairgoers 
of their Yorker heritage. "The old log cabin," the article explained, "was 
taken to the fair last year and was representative of the agricultural home 
of 100 years ago. A large entry list is desired and the keen competition, 
w'hen the old-time masters of the violin engage in the battle of the bo\cs, 
is expected to furnish an entertainment which w'ill again make the old log 
cabin the center of attraction" (Anonymous 1927: 7). 

By the end of World War II, commercial recordings and public ap- 
pearances of the old-time music became less frequent, but the tradition 
was nurtured in the family circle and village cre^ssroads. Around 
Cooperstow'n, New York, for example, where I did much field research, 
Anglo-American fiddle music calls to mind the legaev of prominent music- 
making families going back to the nineteenth century. Residents w'ill tell 
you of the McLeans, the Weir.s, the Hugheses. While they point to the 
changing favor in the "towns" for "western" mu.sic and rock and roll, thev 
still boast of a stronghold of Yankee old-time music stretching through the 
small crossroad villages of Delaware, Otsego, and Chenango counties in 
Central New' York State. 

Prominent in the life of these villages are characters like Llial Glen "Pop" 
Weir (1890-1965) from the "North Country" near Gouverneur, New’ York. 
Working in the lumber camps, he became adept at fiddling as w'ell as 
lumbering. As his son Dorrance explains, "My father used to be a lumber- 
jack and they take a fiddle into the camp w'ith them. They w'ould go in 
the fall and they stay there all winter. Out of sheer boredom they would 
play tunes and make up songs."* Pop continued his playing at home as 
well. His wife accompanied him on piano, and the two of them played 
house dances. Pop moved his grow’ing family to Otsego Countv in the 
1920s. Music united the family, now housing tw'elve children, at evening 
gatherings. Five of the children took up instruments and they all joined 
in the spirit of the tradition at home and at "play parties" at other homes. 

At his general store. Pop kept tw'o or three fiddles on the wall. Other 
old-timers and .some not-so-old timers w'ould join Pop for mid-afternoon 
fiddling sessions. They ran through tunes such as "Pickett's Hornpipe" 
(see Fig. 7), "Sailor's Hornpipe," "Money Musk," "Soldier's Joy," and "Opera 
Reel." Pop's son Les remembered the sessions at the store this way: "Their 
fiddle music w’as old jigs and reels and Scottish tunes and Irish tunes and 

3 ? 


Rickecc's Hornpipe 


^ r F * » 1- 

fa' ^ 



> :► 

^ V - - 


p f ^ ^ ^ 

Figure 7. 

"Rickets Horujupc," plaifcd In/ Pop Weir o}i fiddle. Recorded bp Milo Stewart at 
Violet Weirs home near Cooperstow}i, NY, c. I960. 

some Irish ballads were popular." Dorrance adds, "People would come from 
miles around tci hear mv father fiddle. \ le fiddled clean, \’ou know, it wasn't 
any of the slurry notes and all that." Pop maintained the plain bowing and 
old-fashioned moderate tempos that he inherited from the nineteenth- 
century dance tradition. Because Weir fiddled, some youngsters commonly 
asked him to play southern pieces like "Orange Blossom Special" that were 
coming over the radio., but Pop let his displeasure about the cluttered style 
and scurrying tempo of these pieces be knowm by cal’- 'g chem "God damn- 
ed rebel tunes." Judges at New York State old-time fiddling contests must 
have agreed with Pop's opinion, because he took first in two contests at 
Oneonta and Schenectady that he entered during the 1950s. 

Despite Pop's admonitions, the influence of radio and commercial coun- 
try music could be heard in the playing of Pop's children. The pace is faster, 
and double stops (i.e., the simultaneous sounding of two strings) and slur- 
red notes have entered the style of many fiddle-tune performances. But 
still Pop's music calls the family together at reunions and holidays. Especial- 
ly true to the old-time fiddling of Pop is Les Weir, a talented carpenter by 
trade, who still lives near the old family home in Oaksville. "Well, it's come 



down through the family/' he explains. ''VVe played so much, but we never 
really had a band, as you know it now. We played with whoever was enter- 
taining. It was a family thing, a community thing. We played at people's 
houses; we played at Grange halls, we played at barn dances." Pop's 
daughter Violet also carries on many of Pop's tunes and has passed them 
along to a new generation of Weirs. In 1984, the family, now numbering 
almost 150 relations directly from Pop and Ma Weir, held a reunion in a 
Fly Creek hall. With Violet Weir's daughter offering a guitar backup, Violet 
and Les brought back memories of Fop with renditions (probably done 
faster than Pop would have liked) of "Lamplighter's Hornpipe," "Rakes of 
Mallow," "St. Anne's Reel," and "V\'ind that Shakes the Barley." 

Something happened during the 1980s. Returning sons 
and daughters demanded to know where their culture had 
gone. Today, Anglo-American fiddling is enjoying a 

Despite the gnnving collection tif New Yt)rk's tild-time fiddle tunes from 
living practitioners, there were still stime pundits who claimed a demise 
of the tradition during the 1970s. But something happened during the 1980s. 
Sons and daughters who had left for the cities after high school came back 
to the country. They demanded to know where their culture had gone. 
Surveys re\'ealed a rene\s'ed faith in familv life and regitmal heritage, and 
as if to prove the point, a wave of familv reunitms hit picnic grounds acmss 
upstate New York. Fire halls opened up for square dances again and various 
museums and organizations hosted fiddlers' "conversations" and contests 
(Fig. 8). Reversing a once gloom\' forecast, folk music collector Samuel 
Bayard anntiunced that "genuine traditional fiddling seems to be experien- 
cing something very much like a 'comeback/ with higher technical stan- 
dards than thtise of former times, and numerous upcoming voung pla\'ers 
appearing in towns as well as in the countryside" (Bavard 1980: 11). 

During 1981, the young New York State Old Tvme Fiddlers Associa- 
tion purchased a building ftm the "North American Fiddlers Hall of Fame 
and Museum and a New York State Branch." To draw attention to the 
music's country roots, the organizatitm put the museum in rural Osceola, 
New York. In the old-time music stronghold of Chenango, Otsego, and 
Delaware Counties, a new tirganization arose tti support traditional music. 
Known as the "Del-Se-Nango Olde Tyme Fiddlers Association," the group 
began in 1978 as a spinoff from the New York State Old Tyme Fiddlers 
Association. It sponsored a Yankee square dance caller's contest, an old- 
fashioned wait/ contest, a fiddlers festiwd, and man\’ local dancf s. "These 


Figure 8. 

Fiiidtcr^' Cofivcrsation at the New York State Uistorical As^^oeiation, Cooperatown, 
1978. Left to ri;^ht: Bill Shaiiipine from Delhi, Hiltou Kelli/ from h'lei^chmnjitts, 
(tfui Le< Weir from Oaksville. (Courtesy Roderick Roberts.) 

dtinccs," tlu’ organization's newslelttM- pointod out, "are something that rural 
New York used for entertainment prior to the days of improved, faster travel. 
Neighbors got together, rolled back the rug, danced and helped provide 
the evening rcp>ast" (Anonymous 1986: 17), Although contra dancing disap- 
peared by World War II, the piece continued, and popularity of square dan- 
cing suffered during the rock and roll period, the "traditional dances" are 
back, and residents are again thinking of the region as the "Heartland," 
not backlands "of the Empire State." Maybe the music provides active enter- 
tainment for a health-conscious society maybe it just prevents life from 
getting electronicallv homogenous and dull; maybe it provides a par- 
ticipatc)ry connection with authentic heritage in the midst of a passive age; 
or maybe it gives a sense of community in an overbearing mass culture, 
a new form of regional pride. For one or all of these reasons, Anglo- 
American fiddling and dancing in New York State is enjoying a resurgence. 

This resurgence does not mean that the old order has come back. The 
context of association-sponsored contests and picnics has put an organiza- 
tional structure cm what was once a spontaneous family and community 



setting for old-time music. Associations have taken the lead in maintain- 
ing tradition because they connect scattered networks of old-time-music 
devotees into a cohesive group. The public displays of dance and music 
are less spontaneous than they once were, but they lack none of the vitali- 
ty. The associations work at the grassroots level and often awaken some 
spontaneous celebrations of the old music within crossroads communities. 
In at least one place I know, the tiny Otsego County hamlet of Salt 
Springville, residents pitched in to restore a large Dutch barn which they 
then used for regular barn dances as well as housing for a food cooperative 
and communitv meetings. 

The appeal of the old music has responded time and again to different 
generations. It has been the tool of nation-makers and communitv boosters, 
industrialists and farmers, parents and children. The cultural role that old- 
time fiddling performed for an agrarian natitin has changed in today's 
technological society. The continuance of the old-time fiddling tradition 
reminds us of the need fcir reaching back into the richness of our regional 
cultures, of our families and communities. As we speed headlong into the 
technological future, t)ld-time music still has something for us. With the 
helping hand given by fiddlers' organizations, arts councils, and cultural 
agencies, communities can go beyond regional festivals to rein\'igorate the 
sense of cultural continuity and tradition at their crossroads, in their fire 
halls, and in their homes. The old fiddlers craft has ntit died, but more 
dtK'u mentation is needed in the oft-neglected terrain of the Ntirtheast to 
see the tradition in its full cultural dimensions. 

\OIF s 

rii.mks to tlu- Anhiu-ot \\-u ^ork \V\% ^ork Sl.iti’ A- sou.Uion Coopt'rstoun 

l.M r. .!•> i- iluriMv; ni\ i irlvi t olK Oinv; bop/H 

! from inttT\u-\\s mnn- trom lu-Ui lolUvlions in irntul W-w >ork St.iU' botufon 1*^74 

.i;ul 1*“CS unli'i'' otiu’ruisi' mdkau-J 

\<\ I I Kl \t 1 s t III 1^ 

\n.-nv molls 

U'hon \ .i I iddU- ol Vir' W lion ,Al\.i lU-klu-r I'.iinous Kik.illod Andos 
kovordor kinii.iri 22. p I 

b*2. iMd tinu* l iddliTs to t onipi'ti’ .It I'.iir W’w ^ork liim-s, |ul\ It) st\ 2 p7 
Old limo I ).inoo '^oru's t •>untr\ Musr t ouru-r \l,iv p 17 
lki\.ird ‘'.imuol I’roston 

I'-i''!) Fiiroword /■; M.itthou t .unth.irp UMrnin>; Iho l iddlor s Wjvs l iiiu rsit\ I’.irk I Vnns\ l\ani,i 

'-•t.itc I'nm rsii\ I'n ss. pp 11-12 

|tr> 'Unor '^irnon I 

b'-S, i linu- Miisk \l.ikiMs ot \o\N 'st.ito r«u list' '->\ra<usr L nivrrsiti' IVi’ss 

(i.irl.iiul ll.mihn 

1*M. A 's.ifi ot tiu' [lordfr \ou 'loik 
O'bi.rno 1 fttu- 

l‘»'2 \<'w VtK. s I .uotitf lutu’s \fa. V'tk lolki.’r. (dii.irlork s 2M 


'1 : 


Allen, R. Raymond 

1981 OldTime Music and the Urban R>lk Revival. New York Rilklore 7: 63-Rl. 

Atteberv, Louie W. 

1979 * The Fiddle Tune: An American Artifact In Readings in American R)lklore. jan l larold Brun- 
\-and, ed.. New V)rk: VV. \V. Norton, pp. 324-33. 

Bavard. Samuel Preston 

1982 Dance to the Fiddle, March to the Fife: Instrumental Folk Tunes in Pennsylvania. Universi- 
ty Park: Pennsylvania Stale University Press 

Bethke. Robert D. 

1974 Old-Time Fiddling and Social Dance m Central M Liwrence County. New York R>lklore 
Quarterlv 30: 163-84. 

Ca/den, Norman 

I9ss Dances from Woodland, Square Dances from the Catskills ,-\nn .Arbor. Michigan. Cushing- 

Christeson, R. P. 

P>73 The Old-lime Fiddler s Repertory Columbia: University ut Missouri Press. 

Feintuch, Burt 

1983 The Fiddle in the United States. An 1 listorital Oveniew. Kentuck\' IMlklore Record 29: 3(> IS. 

Ford, Ira W. 

1940 Traditional Music of .America. Nevs ^ork. 1-. P. l')iitt(m 

jabbour, Alan 

1971 American Fiddle Tunes. Banhure in Record Album .AFS Iis2, R>lk Mumc the United States. 
Washington. D.C .: Library ot k'ongress. 

lolman. Beth, and Ralph Page 

IA'^7 The Countr\ D»mce Book, New ^ork A. S Barnes 

Wells, Paul 

1975 New England Traditional Fiddling. Bmehure in record album, |ohn I dwards Memorul Rnin- 
datK«n JEMF-in3, D»s Angeles john Edwards Memorial RiundatUm. 

Winslow. Da\id 

1972 The Rural Square Dance in the Northeastern United States: A Continuitv of Tradition. Ph.D. 
diss.. Unnersitv ot Pennsvhania 


Botkin. B A., ed 

Pla\ and Daiuo Sone.s and luiu’s 1 ibiar\ v>l C ongtes-, \lbunM A,\l DM 
lourgone C tiiu lusu»n" 

IWl C'ontra Dan».e Music from Western .Massachusetts Front Hall (FMR-029) 

(.joehnng. )eft, and Howard Sacks, eds 

|9K=^ Seems Like Romame to Me Traditional Fiddle Tunes inmi Ohio (>ambier Folklore Siu letv 
(CI S 901). 
labhour Alan, ed, 

1971 .American Tuldle Tunes from the Arthneol K4k Smg i.ibrar\ ot (. ongress. Album .AFS Iis2 
Older. Luv.ence 

Nh't .Adirondack ‘songs. ILiILkIs and I iddle limes Tolk-lji*gcU\ F‘s.A-H 
Paton ‘s.indv. ed. 

1977 Bra\e Bo\s New England Traditions 'n Folk Musk New World Record NW 2*^9 
Rogers c'.rant 

Songmakor ol the k .UskipN Folk-1 egai \ ( Fs.A-27i Ballads and ITddle Tunes Kanawha 31.'^ 
Wells. Paul, ed 

197s New I lU’land Iraditioi».i! Fiddling PUn-PCs fohn Idvvariis Memorial Foundation 

Vol. XIV, Nos. 3-4, 1988 

Survival of Greek Folk Music in New York 



The folk music of Greece is related to both classical Greek and Byzan- 
tine church music. Certain folk dances as well as poetic and musical meters 
are directly related to classical traditions, while certain modes (scales), 
melodic characteristics, and ornamental devices are clearly derived from 
Byzantine ecclesiastic music. It would be erroneous, however, to speak of 
a specific type or style of folk music which can be considered common 
to the whole of Greece, Over the centuries, several stylistically distinct 
musical traditions have developed as a result of Greece's geographic posi- 
tion in relation to the other Balkan cultures and to those bordering the 
eastern Mediterranean Sea. 

Music is found in every region and island of Greece and is a vital part 
of every event in village life. The bride and groom are taken to church with 
the sounds of processional music provided by local musicians. During the 
reception, the newlyweds are praised with songs of long life and prosperity. 
Villagers sing traditional road songs as they return home from a long day 
in the nearby lields or after a night of celebrating in the local coffeehouse. 
Mothers lull their babies to sleep with lullabies; the dead are mourned with 
laments. For village people, music not only serves as a means of self- 
expression, but is truly an inseparable part of daily life. 

In general, Greek folk music may be divided into two main classifica- 
tions: the music of the mainland, and of the islands. The mainland regions 
of Epirus, Macedonia, Thrace, Thessaly, Roumeli, and the Peloponn(?sus 
are each considered Distinct musical areas set apart from one another by 
regional customs, dialects, types and categories of folk songs and dances, 
modes (scales), accompanying rhythms, musical and poetic meters, melodic 
ornamentation, structural forms, and types and uses of folk musical in- 

The folk music of Roumeli and the Peloponnesus is rather similar in 
terms of melodic styles, repertoires, and dance types. While the isamiko, 
kahwiaiiiwo, and syrto are among the most common folk dances of the 
regions, klcphtic songs constitute a large portion of the total repertoire. Per- 
formed in free- me ter and in a highly melismatic style, klephtic songs relate 

the heroic efforts of the kiephts (freedom fighters) in battle against and libera- 
tion from the Turks. The typical folk ensemble of these regions consists 
of a clarinet, violin, laouto (lute), and santouri (hammered dulcimer). 

Two characteristic instrumental forms of folk music from the region 
of Epirus are the skaros and wirolo^hi. Both are extended improvisatory 
pieces set in pentatonic modes (five-tone scales) and performed in free- 
nieter over a drone on the tonal center. The most expressive tvpes of dance 
music are the samandaka, berati, pogonissio, and siiigathiskx These dance tunes 
are performed in a slow deliberate tempo while the rhythmic accompani- 
ment is kept rather simple in order to allow the soloist as much melodic 
flexibility as possible. The most common folk ensemble is composed of 
the clarinet, violin, laouto, and defi (tambourine). 

The region of Macedonia has some of the most interesting folk music 
and dances in all of Greece. In addition to the clarinet, \’iolin, and laouto 
ensemble, instrumental groups consisting of the clarinet, cornet, trombone, 
and drums are highly characteristic in the vicinity of Kastoria and Kozani. 
In Naoussa, however, a pair of zuruas (oboes) played to the rhythmic ac- 
companiment of the daouli (a large double-headed drum) is typical. 
Numerous unique folk dances in complex asymmetric meters are among 
the distinguishing features of the central area. 

Thrace possesses an extremely rich song tradition. Folk dances such 
as the popular zonaradliiko are performed in a lively tempo. The gaida 
(bagpipe with a drone) and Thracian li/ra (a type of bowed rebec), both 
accompanied by the daouli, continue to be a vital part of Thracian folk 

The musical style of Thessaly is a mixture of the bordering traditions 
of Epirus, Macedonia, and Roumeli. One of the most characteristic folk 
dances of this region is the karogounikii 

Island folk music, though generally of a "lighter vein," is quite varied. 
One of the richest sources of music is found on the island of Crete. The 
typical duo of lyra and laouto provides much of the lively dance music. 
Rhymed couplets or distichs, known as kondylic^, are found in eastern Crete 
while the mantinadha tradition is popular along the northern coastal areas. 
From western Crete come the songs known as rizifika. These \'erv ancient 
song forms use the decapentasyllabic (fifteen syllables) text line and their 
highly ornate and melismatic melodies are sung in traditional antiphonal 

Typical of the Ionian Islands, a group (T islands along the west coast 
of Greece, is the Ciwtndhii (serenade) sung in three- or four-part harmon\* 
and accompanied by \iulins, guitars, and at times mandolins. Distichs are 
preferred on the Cyclades and Dodecanese islands and the t\'pical folk 
ensemble consists of the \'iolin, laouto, and santouri. 


4 a 

Greek Music in New York: Social Settings 

During the first decade of this century, approximately 170,000 Greeks 
(95 percent of whom were males) entered the United States; many settled 
in New York. The typical immigrant belonged to a peasant society, came 
from a small mainland village, was highly patriotic and individualistic, and 
was devoid of technical skills and a knowledge of the English language. 
Furthermore, he was a product of a nation with a long cultural history richly 
endowed with folkloristic and religious traditions, \bove all, he was ac- 
customed to expressing his nostalgia, his love, his sadness and happiness 
through music and dance (Chianis 1982; 3). 

The Greek coffeehouse tradition was transplanted to America soon after 
the first immigrants arrived. The coffeehouse served as an important socio- 
cultural center where males gathered to discuss current events and politics 
in Greece, their jobs and common problems of adjusting to life in America, 
and to play cards, gamble, read Greek-Ianguage newspapers, and share 
news of their homeland with compatriots. But the coffeehouse was also 
a place where the patrons could sing, listen, and dance to folk music from 
various parts of Greece. Music was often performed by the patrons 
themselves using folk musical instruments belonging to the coffeehouse. 
On weekends and on special holidays, enterprising coffeehouse proprietors 
would hire the services of well-known professional musicians. It is impor- 
tant to point out that many professional and semi-professional folk musi- 
cians earned a living, cultivated their artistry, and expanded their 
repertoires by performing in coffeehouses. 

The coffeehouse eventually became a shadow of its former self, a 
memory of early immigrant days, even though in some communities it has 
survived to this day. One can only conjecture what the social life of the 
male immigrant would have been had it not been for the companionship 
and diversion provided by this very special Greek institution (Saloutos 1964: 

Dancing was an integral part of engagement, wedding, and baptismal 
receptions as well as picnics, name day celebrations, religious and national 
holidays. It is interesting to note that contrary to contemporary practices, 
musicians were seldom paid a set fee for their services. According to folk 
traditions brought from Greece, the lead dancer would request a particular 
dance type or a favorite tune. Since the leader was most often a male, he 
was then obligated to pay the musicians whatever he wished. If he hap- 
pened to be an exceptionally good dancer, several of his friends would 
"throw" substantial amounts of money to the musicians. The length of a 
particular dance or tunc largely depended on the an ant of money given 

4 : 


to the musicians. "Another custom in evidence at weddings [and most all 
types of celebrations] was the practice of wetting one-dollar and five-dollar 
bills with the tongue and sticking them on the foreheads of the musicians" 
(Saloutos 1964: 87). 

Recognizing the supreme pc^sition folk music held in the lives of im- 
migrants, the two giants of the recording industry, Columbia Graphophone 

Figure 1. Spi/ro^ Siiwio< (seated ai the i^ajiiouri) iti Roiimcli, Greece. 


Company and the Victor Talking Machine Company began issuing 78 rpm 
double-sided foreign discs as early as the first decade of this century. 
Among these early recordings, of course, were numerous examples of 
Greek folk music featuring such outstanding immigrant artists as 
Athanasios Makedonas (violin), Christos Gamvas (violin), Andreas Patrinos 
(laouto), Lazarus Rassias and Melas (santouri), G. Kassairas and Kyriakakis 
(clarinet), and the incomparable soprano voice of Mme. Koula (or Coula). 

RCA's early recordings of Greek music are important 
historical documents of a rich and highly varied musical 

During the early 1920s, two privately owned Greek record companies 
were established. They devoted practically their entire output to Greek folk 
music. These historic firms were the Panhellenion Phonograph Record 
Company of New York City and the Greek Record Company of Chicago, 
Illinois. The latter, formed by two distinguished immigrant musicians, 
Spyros Stamos (cimbalum; Fig. 1) and George Grach is (violin), quickly earn- 
ed a national reputation by featuring prominent folk artists of the era. In 
addition to Stamos and Grach is, the artists included Amalia (vocal), the 
singer A. Katsanis (better known by the nickname Mourmouris), Angellos 
Stamos (vocal), Konstantinos Patsios (vocal), Marika Papagika (vocal), 
Epamenondas Asimakopoulos (vocal and laouto). Harilaos Papadakis (vocal 
and Cretan lyra), and the folk clarinetists NMkos Relias and Konstantinc>s 

In 1928 the Raditi Ctirporation tif America (RCA) purc ha.sed the famous 
Victor Talking Machine Company. Two years later letos Demetriades, with 
his expertise and vast experience as former head of Victor's foreign divi- 
sion, approached RCA with a truly historic proposal. Demetriades' plan 
was to record various categories of mtisic in Greece and issue the discs 
in America. RCA, undoubtedly aware of the potential market for this music, 
agreed to underwrite the project. During his twti-year stay (1930 to 1932), 
Demetriades managed to record some of Greece's finest instrumentalists 
and vocalists. Upon his return to New Yc)rk City, Demetriades began 
distributing these recordings on his famous Orthopiionu' label (which bore 
the note: "Manufactured by RCA Victtir Company for the Standard Phono 
Company of New York"). 

Though the collection included some excellent Turkish music (record- 
ed in Constantinople) and Albanian examples, the majority of the music 
was Greek. Demetriades judiciously catered to the highly varied musical 
appetites of the Greek immigrants. Far example, in his general catalogue 
of Orthophonic records dated June, 1941 (Fig. 2), no less than 172 records 


were of tw^o-steps, tangos, fox-trots, and waltzes. All of these dance tunes 
were sung in Greek by artists such as Sophia Vembo, Kakia Mendris, Nikos 
Gounaris, and even Demetriades himself. The collection also included 
Greek serenades (some accompanied by Haw'aiian guitars and mandolin 
orchestras), comical songs and dialogues (sketches), and examples of music 
of the Greek Orthodox church. 










Figure 2. Title ol TefO)^ Dcmcfruidc^' Gcnvnil Catalog of Creek, Turkish und 
Albuuiiiu Orlhophouie records, 



But the most important musical contributions of Demetriades were his 
recordings of rebetic music of the Greek subculture, Anatolian music (the 
musical traditions of Greeks residing in or originating from the Asian Minor 
cultural centers of Smyrna and Constantinople, now Izmir and Istanbul 

rpm labels of Greek folk musie issued in America, ca. 1910-19M. 

respectively), and the folk music of Crete, Cyprus, and the Greek mainland. 

It should be emphasized that Demetriades recorded collection of mainland 
folk music, made during an era that 1 like to refer to as ''the golden age 
of Greek folk music," succeeded in capturing for posterity the unequaled 
artistries of such truly great professional folk clarinetists as Nikitas, 
Apostolis Stamelos, Nikos Karakostas, Konstantinos Karagiannis, Baios 
Malliaras, and Christos Margielis. Among the vocalists were Georgios 
Papasideris, Demetrios Benetos, and the immortal female voices of Rita 
Abatzis and Rosa Eskinazi. 

Recordings of Greek folk music in America and those imported from 
Greece are extremely important historical documents of a very rich and 
highly varied musical tradition. They also provide a remarkable opportunity 
for the study of styles, artists, instrumentation, melodic ornamentation and 
improvisation, and regional repertoires. Equally important is the fact that 
these recordings accurately reflect the types of live music that were per- 
formed at weddings, on name days, in coffeehouses, and at picnics and 
holiday celebrations sponsored by churches and Greek societies. 

Greek Music in Print 

The G reek-language newspapers assumed an important role in the lives 
of immigrants. They provided news from villages and regions of Greece 
to those who had not yet learned to read English. The Atlantis, the second 
Greek-language press in America, was founded in New York City in 18^4. 
It provided immigrants with books published in Greek in a variety of sub- 
jects including folk music. Its first collection of music made its appearance 
in 1912. 

In 1923 the Apollo Music Publishing Company of New York City in- 
itiated a series of publications of Greek folk music for various instruments 
(Fig. 3). The sheet music, comprised mostly of dance tunes, offered the 
performer a choice of either playing the "simple melody" or the "artistic" 
one which more closely approximated the melodic ornamental practices 
of folk musicians. Though these publications were of immense importance 
and were distributed throughout America, they were not intended as per- 
formance editions for professionals. They simply served the important task 
of acquainting immigrants and their offspring with the rich musical heritage 
of Greece. 

Greek Musicians' Union of America "Apollon" 

In October of 1918, a group of immigrant nnusicians concerned about 
the state of Greek folk music in America gathered together in New York 
City and organized the Greek Musicians' Union of America 'Apollon" [Elliniki 
Mousiki Enosis en Anieriki "Apolkm"\. It is important to note that its presi- 
dent. loannis Demetropcmlc^s, the board of the directors, and the entire 
membership were actively involved with the performance of Greek folk 
music either as professionals, semi-professionals, or amateurs. The 



Figure 3. Title of Greek dancer miii si)?;ys for chuiuet, violin, ninndolin mui 
comet. Apollo XU{<ie pHblii^hin\^ Cottipnm/, \eie York, l92o. 

orgtini/ot ion's prime L^bjectiw* was io preser\’e Greek Hilk music in America. 
Unfortunatelv, the organization was dissoKed in 1921. 

The Making of Musical Instruments 

Two of the most popular folk musical instruments of Greek folk music 
were the laouto and sanlouri Althougli most immigrant musicians brought 


their instruments with them, there soon was a tremendous demand tor 
new ones. An oustanding craftsman of Creek folk instruments was A. 
Stathopoulos of New York City. Exactly when he began making instruments 
is not kiKHvn; however, it is well known that his musical instruments were 
highly prized by folk musicians throughout America. 1 recently examined 
a laouto of his (1915 vintage) owned by the late Charles Leounis of Bingham- 
ton, New York. Despite its age, it was in excellent condition. The printed 
label inside the instrument gave the following information: 

No. 372-1 


Date Mav 1913 

This in.strument is manufactured from materials that 
are especially selected and well seasoned. 
Workmanship and construction arc unexcelled. It is 
guaranteed against defects and remains climatically 

A. Stathopoulos 

Manufacturer of Musical Instruments 
New Yirk, N.^'. U. S. A. 

The soundhole or rose of the laouto is ornamentally carved trom a separate 
piece of hardwood and bears the initials of the maker: 

Ruhhin<^ of the ^oinutholc 
( Ri’iiuccd ) 


■ >1 



The Rise of Bouzouki Music 

Until the end of World War 11, Greek folk music of America as well 
as in Greece remained relatively unchanged. The prevailing musical style, 
repertoire of dance songs, and the instrumental ensemble and its perfor- 
mance practices were definitely that of mainland Greece, since the ma- 
jority of immigrants originated from the regions oi Rounieli and the 
Pelc'^ponnesus. The clarinet and \’iolin of the ensemble perh)rmed the 
melody in heterophonic style, the santouri (hammered dulcimer t)r cim- 
balum) added an additional layer of melody, while the laouto was confin- 
ed to rhythmic and harmonic accompaniment. However, musical as well 
as extra*musical events in Greece were to have dramatic effects t)n the folk 
in Greece and eventualK' in America. 

The neiv post-war urban middle class, with unique social 
needs, created bouzouki music. 

Following the World U'ar, Greece w'as dewistated bv a lung and bitter 
civil w'ar. Country folk abandoned their villages and flocked to urban centers 
to seek work and a "better" wa\' of life. As a result, a huge urban middle 
class society was created. The folk songs and dance traditions that these 
people brought with them were no longer "suitable” for cilv life. Alsoquite 
unsuitable was the rcbctic musical tradition "left <.>\'er" from pre-war vears 
that spoke of miseries, loneliness, po\'erty, pathos, and jails. What the mid- 
dle class needed, then, was a tvpe of music, dances, and K'rics suitable 
to their social environment. The answer, of course, was the tradition kn<.n\'n 
bouzouki music or popular music. The ensemble included one or two am- 
plified bouzoukis (a long-necked lute), an amplified guitar, drums and other 
Western instruments. This music was so enthusiasticallv accepted in Greece 
that Greek entertainment clubs in New ^brk City and around the country 
began booking entire bou/viuki ensembles directiv from Greece for their 
Greek-American clientele. F-olk ensembles L)Cgan borrowing its repertoire 
and instrumentation. When professiemal folk clariiu.Uists Tissos llalkias, 
Apostolis Stamelos, and Vasilis Saleas came to America to perform in New 
York entertainment clubs, they brought with them a ucw folk performance 
style. The old folk ensemble of violin, santouri, and laouto ga\e wa\ to 
tin ensemble of amplified guitar, drums, and electric organ. 

On wry rare occasions, lolk music programs are presented in the tradi- 
tional style with traditional musical instruments. Most often, however, folk 
and popular Cavek music performed in New York and throughout America 
is provided by bouzouki ensembles. Topulous cities throughout the state 
of New York have at least one such ensemble that performs music for wed- 
dings, church and community sponsored dances, and holidav celebrations. 


Churches now hold annual festivals and bazaars where one can sample 
food, enjoy listening and dancing to live folk and popular music, and 
witness voung men and women performing all types of folk dances in na- 
tii)nal costumes. Greek-Americans young and old take pride in preserv- 
ing the rich folkloristic heritage brought to America by their parents and 

Baud -Bow s.imuel 

vSC haii'-on'' dii 2 voU, Athens Aidon^ 

N72 Chanson" populancs do L n-tf o,. I idi-ntali' ('.ono\.i, "-w il/orlanJ. Minkott 

k hianis. Sotjri(»" (Sami 

A Ghrnpso ('.rook Mu"K it^ .Amoriui (,'irook Tour Wintor • "^pun); 

(BookU-0 \ou V>rk lithnio Folk Arts (..ontor pp. 3-4 

lolk ol \1,mliP.4‘a Gn oot- Ht‘ikilo\ I os An.O’U". CniuTsitv ot kalitoinia rro*'" 

Itu* Mlpn 

h>7> Ihf MarbU' Ihroshinv; R<*or A Ci4K'i.tion ot ( Tolk S>n^s .Austin [ho L m\crsii\ ot 

Saloutos 1 hoodoTf 

k'o4 llu kirofks in iho L nitou 'states C ambridm.- \l.iss,u luisotis\.ird Limorsit\ Cross 
\our.Js Mar\ aiui K lloldon 

b'ps tirooklt*ik Oanvo- \ow h r>o\ I olkv ratt Pmss 

I piiolika with Tiitklis t.rt'ok l^'lk Musk and D.imt's [<Jo».ordoJ in \w\ V*rk K*tkua\ UiKonIs 
I UC24 and ^4i>2s 

Kdk lAinii's ol ( iTikvo [otk\vJ\ K^Kords 11- 44n. 
lolk Musk t*l i.ri'Oio I-i-iku.r* Ki\ords H 44^.j 
M.'dorn i,ro(4 Mor. >ii Oral l’oi'tr\ T"lk\\.i\ Uoiorvls 11 4 


Kl kkCMMl M)1 M I l^n \l\t. 




\bl. XIV, \’os, 3-4, 1988 

Writing While They're Singing: 
A Conversation About 
Longhouse Social Dance Songs 


W lu‘n 1 iiskcd an Imquoian friend what she thouglnt people should 
know about traditional L.onghouse social music, she replied, '"W'hy not tell 
them that Iroquois songs and dances are ali\'C and well — and li\’ing at 
Allegany, \ew York!” We both laughed — but what she said underscores 
s(tmething ortcn (nerlooked: Longhouse singing is c\Wve, continuing, 
flourishing at Alleganv and at least 10 other Imquoian communities.* 

liiuuicfiosiuuu’t'^ culture is an ongoing wa\' of life, based in part on the 
Cm:ri:i/o:h. or "Ck)od Message" of Seneca prophet Handsome Lake, and 
on the Cireat Law of the Iroquoian Confederac\A In these communities, 
singing is an integral part of I'elebralion and healing; it is one wav o. relating 
to and communicating with the world are-und you. But how does a non- 
Xati\e person de\elop an understanding of "music" in Iroquoian com- 
munities? I low do you write meaningfully about these "oral" traditions? 
And how do \’ati\e singers in these communities react to what has been 
written aK>ut them,' 

[^or me. these fundament. I questions ha\e been at the heart of con- 
versations with Imquoian singers during the past three vears, as part of 
m\- work with the SPI\C (Sound-f'roducing Instruments in \ati\e Com- 
munities) research project, based at Queen's L'ni\ersit\’ in Kingston, 
C anada.* In this brief introduction to traditional social dance music, I would 
like to relate my understanding of certain basic concepts of Longhouse 
philosophy, and to explore how this world \ ie\\ challenges the wav we 
wrilL* ethnographies and hilklore. 

Going to the Social 

C'hi.N’oh ni jongwe lu^ 
e\agw adeno:dt‘ 
no:ges neh(i gar*:ni\o 
e\ag\\ .idi’no.dt* 
gai no w i wi.h. he ya:h 

We'\e come from Allegaiw; 
we're gt>nna sing. 

We've got got)rl songs 
we're gonna sing 
( lai no wi \ a:h. he \a 

Seneca (sL/uia7/' 

5 :> 


There are three basic "categories" of traditional Umghouse songs: social 
dance songs, or i/ociiza[^cka:', "the earth kind"; ceremonial songs, thank- 
ing the Creator and other forces for their continued help; and songs for 
curing society "doings," which assist both individuals and communities. 
A quick survey of literature about Iroquoian culture suggests that far more 
has been written about music at cereint)nies and "doings" than at social 
occasions/’ But when I first talked with Iroquoian singers, 1 soon realized 
that manv have strong concerns about non-Native interest in these fairly 
restricted and often quite personal events; some people question the need 
of the non-Nat i\’C public to ha\’C access to information for which it has no 
practical use. I:ven within these communities, restrictions are in place to 
safeguard ceremonial and curing songs from misuse and exploitation. Social 
dances, on the other hand, arc far more public; they can be sung any time 
there is cause for celebration — at weddings, after Longhouse ceremonies, 
at family gat erings. 

In manv of these communities, people get together e\'cry few weeks 
during the evening to ha\e a "social" at the Longhouse. Sometimes, these 
galh rings are held after Longhouse dinners or "tea meetings" which raise 
monev for upcoming ex'ents. The Longhouse itself, \vu/o//sc:s, is a rec- 
tangular, single-story wooden building, often painted white. This struc- 
ture is at the heart of manv traditional social, ceremonial and political events 
in the conmiunity; like the songs, like the people themseKes, it is con- 
sidered to be ali\'c. 

Socials usually start around 7:00 p.m. One enters the building through 
either the men's or women's doors. At first, mc’ist people sit on benches 
along the wall, relaxing, talking with friends, joking with one another. 
Then, several people (usual Iv Longhouse faithkeepers, who act as 
"deacons" in the communitv) decide who will organize the evening, chtxw- 
ing the head singers and a speaker to announce the dances. Once this is 
settled a speaker stands up bv the benches, reciting the Cuvionn/^mk, or 
"Thanksgiving Address," which opens and closes e\’er\' Longhouse event. 
This address, spoken in Iroquoian as are all speeches and announcements 
in the Longhouse, acknowledges all the enx iron mental and spiritual fc'^rces 
"from the earth to be\wnd the skv"“ which help human itv survix'e. In stmie 
Longhouses, visitors are then formal!)^ introduced to the communit\’ and 
e\'ei\'one comes forward to shake their hands. 

The first social dance "set" (or "song cx’cle") is always the Standing 
Quiver. After this is announced, a lead singer and a gioup t^f other men 
who "help prop up the song ' stand up, mo\'ing towards the men's fireplace 
at one end of the building. They dance while singing, mo\’ing in a single 
line first artmnd the fireplace, and then around the entire dance area in 
a counter-clockv. ise direction. This is the only social dance sung without 
instruiTients — the beat is established b\’ the rh\thm t)f the songs and b\’ 
the dancers themseK’es as they mow around the 1 onghouse. 


The set amsists of five to 15 short songs, each lasting from 20 to 60 
seconds. Songs are sung antipl'K)nally; the lead singer begins each song, 
singing a short rhythmic phrase consisting of vocables; others respond with 
an answering phrase, in a call-resptmse style. After a few songs, nn)re 
dancers join in as the speaker encourages everybody to get up and dance. 

The next set at every social is a Moccasin dance. R)r this set, singers 
sit on a bench in the center of the Longhouse. Someone brings out a bag 
t)f cowhorn rattles and singers sort through them, deciding which instru- 
ment best suits their voice. The lead singer generally uses a water drum, 
a hand-held instrument made fmm wood or plastic pvc tubing, w'hich con- 
tains a small amount of water to tune the drum head. Hverwme has a 
favorite rattle or drumstick. Again, the lead singer starts each song, but 
others "pick it up" at the first melodic repetition; together, in unison, they 
finish the songs. 

The Moccasin dance is one of the most popular sets among \’uung peo- 
ple; it's fast and fun. Manv people have told me thev w'ould rather dance 
this than sing. Usually, men begin to dance first, mo\hng in a single line 
around the singers' bench. After several short songs, pairs of women join 
in, tuo women dancing in line between t\\‘o men. Mid- wav through the 
song, the drum beat alters slightly, and men and women dancers change 
pace; the next time the beat "shifts." the dancers change back again, a man 
resuming the lead. All are joking, laughing as they dance, cheering on 
favorite songs. 

Socials always begin with these two sets — but after that, there is no 
specific order — singers can choose an\' set thev like. There <ire at least 
30 different social dance sets, sc* av consisting of up to 60 i)r more songs. 
Every set has characteristic melodies, rh\'thmic patterns and dance steps. 
Some, like the Standing Quiwr, are danced single file bv men and women. 
(.’Jthers are "couples dances," with men and women dancing as partners; 
■nany of these, such as the Rabbit and Alligator dances, haw been bor- 
rowed and adapted from other Indian nations. 

The speaker gets up again, encouraging everyone to "h(*lp out the 
singers." There is no audience at a social; c\er\'ono is in\-ol\ ed, taking part, 
whether they are singing, dancing, or talking with friends. People know 
these songs and dances by heart, having joined in at socials since thev 
were infants, carried around by their mothers on the dance floor. 

As the owning continues, the Longhouse gets quite warm and steam 
fogs up the windows. Sometimes, the I xinghouse gets so crow'ded that i here 
is hardly room for dancers to move. The floor shakes like the surface cM 
a big drum — even while sitting, participants move to the beat. Singers 
alternate between fast and skn\- sets, appealing to dancers ot all ages and 

Most socials end around 11:00 p.m.. depending on lht‘ occasimi. The 
last dance is announced, the List song ends. .Again, the speaker stands 

5 '/ 

and recites an abbreviated version of the Gafiomifouk, ctnripleting the cycle 
of the evening; and then everyone goes home. 

Like the Gmio:}mmk, social dances express a relationship between peo- 
ple and the worid around them; through these dances, they thank the 
Creator for those gifts "put on this earth/' celebrating that they too are part 
of this earth. This interrelationship of people, environmental and spiritual 
forces is central to Longhouse philosophy: everything, everyone is related, 
everything has a purpose. 

Some social dances have existed as long as people have 

Eskanyeh songs: Continuity and Change 

^'a va \'a ya \*a 
Heh \va do ahwe ojeh 
s;ho Indian Beatles 
H wo do;h 

C'.ai no wi \ a:h, he \ a:h 

W'i ya ya ya ya 
What the heck! 

Indian Beatles it will turn to 
(we'll become) 

Gai no wi \’a:h, he \'a . . . 

\ewtown cskmiudli c, h)6p 

se\ eral vears, I ha\e been particularh' interested in one kind of social 
dance, the cskiwi/ch, or "ladies shuffle dance" (sung b\’ men or women, 
but danced onl\' bv women.) It is thought to be one of the oldest Iroquoian 
dances, existing as long as people have existed. It is also one of the few 
sets tor which new songs are regularh’ composed. 

At least twice a vear, singing societies from different communities get 
tiygether lor a "sing." which is a type of intercommunity social, lasting from 
mnm until e\ ening. Ever\‘ group performs one set of cskiim/ch, "se\en songs 
twice thn)ugh": unlike a social, howewr. no one dances during these per- 

"Sings" are a kind of friend I v "competition," althougl'i 1 use that worc'l 
cautiimslv. In Longhouse philosoph\‘, the abilitv to sing is considered a 
gift from the Creator for the benefit of the communitv; competition for per- 
stmal gain is not encouraged. Singing societies are primarih' charitable 
organizations, raising mone\’ or otiierwise helping as needed; singing is 
only iMie oi their acti\'ities. 

The biannual "sings" began in the l%0s, developing from iru^re infor- 
mal get-togethers after Longhouse ceremonies. As long as thev can 
remember, however, singers haw been meeting to share cskau\fch songs; 
the Inkiest, called "Columbus" or "Wagon train" songs, are thought to date 
back well (wer a hundred \*ears. 

At "sings," unlike most socials or twy Longhouse cerenmnies, people 
are perm i ted to use taj^e recorders. In fact, n'u)st singers have fairh' exten- 



sive collections of eskain/ch tapes, some dating back to the late 1940s. This 
makes it comparatively easy to become familiar with a broad range of songs 
from different communities and different eras. 

Allc;^an\/ s/j/ycrs at the Couudl of Three R/ivrs pounoow, Pennsylvania. Photo 
hif Sai}i Cnmk.^ 

Lt^kam/eh song texts consist of coiables and or short phrases in Seneca, 
and occasionally in English. Some singers use English phrases as vocables, 
choosing words for their sound or rhythmic quality, rather than their 
linguistic moaning. Many popular eskani/eh are humorous. Some feature 
musical "jokes," such as unexpected silences part u'ay through a song. Texts 
might bo comic, such as the "Indian Beatles" eskajiyeh, recognizing the im- 
pact of "rock and roll." Many songs provide a wry social commentary; for 
example, a recent example from AE'<’esasne, New York ends with: "Cigar- 
ettes, bingo, gasoline What's world coming to? Gai no wi ha:h, he \/a 
. . ." Through eskam/eh, singers . ' able to address the very serious issues 

u hich confront their community. 1 lumor provides a way of releasing ten- 
sion, iT "putting thirgs in proper perspective" - it is a gift that many 
Longhouse singers share. 

Borrowing and adapting other musics are also part ot this tradition. 
New eskanyeh ma\' be entiroK' original, or may incorporate texts and tunes 
from other songs. The possibilities for recombination are endless. In the 
1930s and '40s, some eskim/eh adapted popular "cowboy songs.'" A widelv 

Jroquoian and Anisluiahe dancers at Nanierind pou*ivou\ Ontario. Photo bxj Sam 

sung one uses the meloci\' from "M\' son lmIIs another mnn Diuidy;" its 
text consists entirely ot \'ocnbles, and the musical structure is 
characteristically Iroquoian. but the original "cowboy" tune is quite 
recognizable. Other cskani/ch borro\\' from folk songs such as "Turkey in 
the Straw," or "She'll Be Cornin' Round the Mountain More recentlv, some 
c>kivwch liave shown verv strong influences of "powwtv.v" singing in their 
pitch, tempo, mek^dic structure and vocal style. 



Singers recognize these influences and changes as part of a natural 
development or growth of the cskaju/ch singing "tradition." Clearly, some 
changes are considered to be more desirable than others — older people 
often find new songs too fast to dance to — but change in itself is not 
thought essentially bad. Of course, there is a range of views as to what 
maV/ or may not, be acceptably adopted from other cultures, and other 
musics — everything noivlroquoian is m)t equally welcomed in Longhouse 
communities. But eskam/ch sets, whether accompanied by plastic or wooden 
water drums, borrowings from "cow'boy" or "powwow" songs, recorded 
or learned bv memory, reflect a pattern of change and continuity that is 
part of a //I’niy tradition. It seems that much of the strength of Longhouse 
philosophy stems from this ability to borrow and adapt selectively, yet in 
doing so. to maintain a separate and distinct identit\' as Haudcuosaii'iiec, and, 
at a broader le\’ol, as Ouqur oiwch’ or "real people first people" of North 

Writing While They're Singing 
Gagwego wi no na:h 
de voh ya:h do we do:h 
ga:e de gwa he dweh 

Ga whe he dweh 

ga whe he ge:h 

Gai no wi \'a:h, he wi:h 

should think about 
where we are going 

U'here are we going? 
where am I gtnng? 

CLu no wi \’a:h, he va 

— A\’orv's c>kiun/ch, Alleganv 

There are as man\' wa\‘s to write about music of other cultures as there 
are people and disciplines v\ ho do so. Some fa\'or interpretive or "thick" 
descriptions of e\’ents; others, more detailed anaU'ses of specific musical 
stvle and structure. Obviously, folklorists, anthropologists, and 
ethnomusicologists will each shape what they write according to their in- 
terests, professional training and competence. But how do Native com- 
munities react to what has been w'ritten? 

Writing about other musics is rather like half of a con\'ersatitm — w'hat 
is lacking is some immediate, tangible response from the singers 
themselves. Like many researchers, the SPINC group has been develop- 
ing an ongcMng dialogue with the communities with whom we work, check- 
ing ti) see if what we are writing is reasonahU' coherent, accurate and 
relevant. I have found such conversations with Longhouse singers and 
speakers to be extremelv rewarding and pro\‘ocati\'e. often challenging the 
way I think and write about music. 

Manv Iroqimian singers are not comft)iiable with the wav Ltmghcuise 
concepts about traditional songs and dance are translated into English; as 
with anv shift from one language (or culture) to another, meanings are often 

lost or changed. One singer told us that he found English tt) be rather 
uLllitarian, functional, flat — it lacks tlie poetry and depth of moaning of 
his own language, and so for him it could not express Utuidniosiuincc 
philosophy very adequately. 

The English word "myth" is unacceptable to Iroquois; 
"traditional" is inaccurate, and "sacred" and "secular" 
have no equivakmt in any Iroquoian language. 

Others identify specific words or phrases they find problematic. For 
example, manv singers are not satisfied with the phrase "social dance" — 
thev tell me that these dances are not "social" {in a secular sense) at all. 
We often use this phrase when talking together in English, but none the 
less, it can be misleading. It seems best to avoid labels such as "sacred" 
or "secular" when discussing Iroquoian songs or traditional culture. These 
worlds have no exact equivalents in anv Iroquoian language; and in com- 
munities where a spiritual sense is so per\asi\'e, it becomes meaningless 
to sort things in this wa\'. Ever\ thing, e’^ery song, has a purpose. 

We often discuss other words that are part of the common repertoire 
of folklc^re studies and ethntigraphv. Some words, like "myth" are seen 
as verv perjorative b\' these singers. Labelling their beliefs "myths," they 
teel, suggests that these are cmly "stories" or "illusions," something not 
to be taken seriousK'. The word "traditional" also has to be used with care 
since it is defined by Native and non-]\ative communities in so many dif- 
terent wavs.^ To some Iroijuoian people, a "traditional" person is one who 
speaks an Iroquoian language fluent I \', For i'»thers, a "traditional" person 
striclK' adheres to Longhouse beliefs (rather than Christianity or other 
Native religions). The closest Irciquoian equivalent I have been taught is 
enyu’f' o:wc:ka:' or "the Indian wav" — which implies both a distinct way 
t)f understanding and li\ ing in this world. 

In other conversations, we ha\ e discussed broader labels that shape 
much of what has been written about Native culture — labels such as 
"assimilation" and "acculturation" (or culture loss), and "Pandndianism," 
(tir, the merging of sex'eral cultures into one inseparable western Inciian 
traditiim). .Native and non-Native communities alike have set man\‘ of these 
labels aside, rectigni/ing that the\' reflect more about a deeply rooted im- 
lige of "Indianness" that per\ tides non- Native' '.cademic and popular 
theiught than Native i'ealit\'.‘^ Of course, whatever words or labels we choose, 
this pre)cc'sse)t "categorizing culture" is part of a Ihiro-Nortli Aiiierican tradi- 
tion of sorting and e)rdering the world, of explaining cultural change and 
con tin uity. 

FinalK', some singers are cemeerned that we might miss the meaning 
of seicial dance semgs as a result o\ our "preicess eif anahsis." The\' realize 


that we (researchers) find value in transcribing songs or studying dance 
patterns and melodic structures, but caution that we may still not recogni/e 
the heart or life ot a song. Analysis can, of course, turn songs into ob- 
jects," something detached, unconnected to "real life;" and emotional, sub- 
jective responses to songs, dances and events don t always fit comfortably 
in "ethnographic" publications. And yet, without the emotional aesthetic 
response, it is difficult to fully appreciate the purpose of social dance songs, 
or the life within them. 

There is no one simple definition or social dance songs, or socials. As 
many singers ha\'e told me, "It's indi\'idual" — people express a personal 
understanding of stmgs, of hhiudniosauucc culture in general, in slightly 
different ways. Some Longhouse singers have Udd me that these songs and 
socials create a sense of well being, that they are emotionally healing and 
enriching. Others have said that these get-togethers make them "feel as 
alive and as human as the music is." Social dances are certainly not the 
only kind of music existing in Longhouse communities, but they are in- 
tegral to these communities. The rich repertoire of songs and dances are 
important in reaffirming the sense ot "relatedness" and community so 
essential to Haudenosaunee culture. 

A Nati\e friend once told me. 

It’s strange — but it's the ending of these events that 1 always 
remember most clearly. People saying goodbs’e, mo\'ing towards 
their cars, pausing for a parting joke, shaking hands. Sometimes 
1 can’t sta\' until the end. I have to leave with the music still 
going, and as 1 go outside, I can hear the drum and the sound 
of the voices all the wa\’ to my car. Sometimes, I hear it even 
after I'\e left, because I know that they're still singing. 

And so thev are. 

\Ol 1'^ 

1 l Aii^i;housi‘ lrot]Lini,in LLtninuinilifs include .Akw (intcTM.\ \e\c V»rk tlnt.irm 

.Hid Qiiebri), C lonaw.ind.v Onond.\v».i. .imi t'noid.i. Xew V>rk. Six Xalions and 

l^neida Settlenu-nl Oinlariti. the- Onoid.i Wisconsin, and .1 W-neca-C avu>;.i lummnnily in 
Oklahoma, whore ihe I on>;hc>u‘ve oeremonial ovolo ^.onllnm’^ ll should ho emph.isi/ed that I 
amdisoiissin>;onlv one kind ot ' musu ' in thoso lomnnimhes in this paper ^pecitkalK h>n>;house 
snoial and daiues. C'lther tvpes ot musio may ran>;e troin hliie>;rass to rock, trom sinj;inj; 

to pouuous. or listening to I’alsv t ime tapes tooolk-Oing Molow n records all part ot the* 
ailUiral n*alitv in Oonlemporarv lriK|uoian uuietv 

2 / /ai<i/eu()sin/Hiv 'PiMiple ot the Urnghouse. 

1 fhorearo, ol course, diltereiues among communities. A\ C attaraugus and .MIoganc. lt>r oxampUx 
there are no acting Seneca liv.vditaiv chiets. at SixXalions, .in elected hand council coexists with 
the t oniodor«KV (not ' sanOionod'' hy the Canadian lodoral government.) At Ak'.wsasne, there 
are some ditfereners expressed by U>nghouse people supporting the Cunttde'-acy and the 
0.iia-i and ihtise whc’ place less emphasis on the llaiidsume Uiki' C c*de I'll course, it is 

not sui prising that <1 range ot views c\isls among the six Inujuoian nations, considering Ihe dil- 
tereiicvs m historic background .inumg these communit les .ind the phvsieal distances separating 




4. 1 would like to thank my colleagues at SPIXC, Dr Beverky Cawinagh and Fran/iska von Rosen, 
as always, for their insight and support; I would ako like to acknowledge the StK'ial Science and 
Humanities Research Council ot Canada (SSHKC V) for financially a'^sisting the SPINC project. 
Again, many thanks to the singers at \’ewtown. Akuvsasne, Sw N'a^ionsand Allegany, tor their 
Iriendship and generosity, without them there would fv no paper. 

n. Thanks to Fi limmerson, Allegany. v\ ho helped greatly with these translations, she uses a slight- 
ly ditferent Seneca orthograph\‘, as do many people in this comnuinitv 

h. See, lor e\timple, Weinman l%d; o\er 180 entries specifically deal with ceremonies, n’ledicines. 
curing rites and ceremtmial material culture, I could find fewer than 10 entries (outside historical, 
biographical, and physical anthropological archae».>logical entries) that specif icallv deal with 
U> stvw/ events and music 

/ fxister 1974 presents an e\cellent discussion i>t the ihank.'-gn ing .Addresses troni sj\ Nations. 

5. For other discussions oi "detining" and ’ identitying" uhat i^ and is not ' traditionjl. ' see Dundes 
el al . 1984. t litlord 19SS (w ith its wondertul 'machine tor making aiitlu'iitiutv i, and Do\tal‘ir 

9 F.dward Bruner, among others, destribes the series ot ' narratnes ' ot success^ e -stones ' whk h 
have been pm torward to explain changeand continuitv in Native cultures (Bruner, el al. l^^.Ho 
139-1."*:*'. Stime »*t these narratives, hovsever sueh as the mvth ot the vanishing Indian " are 
remarkablv tenacious 

ki-H-Kf NX 1-^ rm n 

Bruner hdward et a I 

|98h F.ihru’graphv as Narrative hi I he .Anthropologv v>l I vperienLe Lrbana 11. 

(. littord. lanie 

IASK Ci»liecting .Art and Culture h\ The Predicament «*I Culture Cambridge 

Dictator. Deborah 

19S8 The Home lU Indian C ulture and Other stories m the Museum Muse la It 
Dundes. .Alan. et. a I 

WH4 Defining Identitv Ihnmgh K.lkk're. and C ommentarv lournal ot Folklore Research 21 ^ 


K>ster. Michael 

19/4 In mi the Tarth to flevond the^kv An 1 thnograf»hn. .\ppn*aLh t*» Fv*ur D 'Mghi*use ^peei h 

Fvents clttawa- National .Museum ot Man 
Weinman Paul I. 

|9o9 A Bibhograpliv ot the Iroquois Literature Hulletinlll Alhanv Nev% ‘lork ^tafe Museum 
and '^cie:iie Service 

Rl'COM.Ml NDI n KF ADi\'c,> 

U'l a^kItfIt*nal intormatsm aK*ii[ longhouM- Mneine and lr«* 04 h*ian vullute in een.-r.i! 

Cornelius Richard, and Terente C’>Xjradv 

|9H7 ReMaiming a Tradition' The So, iring Lagles ot c'^neida I thn.umiskoIegv t 1-2 pp 2k 1-272 
h'sier ,M. k I campisi. and M. .Mithun. eds 

1984 Fxtending the Ratters- Interdiseipliiicjrv .Approadies tv* Iroquoian Miuiies \lbam sL N^ 

ludkins. Russell .A , ed. 

1987 Iroquois Studies ,\ Ciuide to Doainientare and Fthnegraplik Resourvos irom Western New 
'fork and the C'.encsee \'al!ev Geneseo N^ SLN^ Press 
Kurath. C.ertrude 

19M Iroquois .Music and Dance, t eremoma! Arts ni Iwo Soivca D*nghousos RAF Bulletin 22(i 
Washington. DC' L'.S CJovernnient Printing clttice 

Dame and Si»ng Rituals of Six Natums Reserve Ontario National Miisoum ot M.m Bulletin 
220 c^ttav\a. .N’alit>nai Museums ol C anada 
Shmioiiv Aiinomarie A 

C iuisltv iitisni aniving tlu‘ irv*ijui.Ms at thi- ^i\ Natu'iis l-k'siTve ^.Ile Lniver'-itv rublnatk'ns 
1(1 Anthr«.>pi'h*gy, Ne'\ Haven Nile Lniversitv i’ress 






Holh, Ghtirlottc. colli»ctor ond prc>ductT 

W7('» Sony's oJ l-.arlh. UaltT, Fire and Sky- Music oi the American Indians. Neu World. \’W 24n 
Includes sistuil dance music trnm Seneca communities in New 'lork. 

Iroquois Social Dan e Songs 

NH2 3 vols. IriKjrafts, Ltd. FcMlures songs frcmi Si\ Nations. Oniarm. 

Keimer, Mary Franci*.. collector and ‘nneUator 

1^80 Seneca Social Dance Music. Ethnic fx>lkuavs Rc‘Cords, !-Ii 4072. Songs triim Allegany, \'V. 
Six Nations Singers 

Veh ven ^'n sa gev had nad tren nute tah: Iroquois Social Music. Music Gallery Lditions, 
MGE 16. 

Vol. XIV, Nos. 3-4, 1988 

Traditional Japanese Music in Nezv York State 


in recent decades, performances of traditional Japanese music’ have 
increased dramatically in New York State, most notably in New York City. 
The most important reasons behind this growth in musical acti\’itv include 

1) the increased curiosity among Americans about the cultural life of japan, 

2) the increased importance placed on foreign tours among Japanese ar- 
tists and politicians and 3) a resurgence of interest in Japanese ethnic iden- 
tity among Japaneso-Americans. In the midst of this activity, an interesting 
development ciuring the past decade has been the significant invoK'ement 
of Americans not of Japanese descent in Japanese music performance and 
teaching in New \brk State. The diwrsity of both the music performed 
and those wIki perform it reflect \s ell the cultural heterogeneit)’ of the Em- 
pire State. 

in present da\- japan, genres of traditional Japanese music are com- 
monly categorized as either "classical" or "folk" in nature.^ So-called’ 
"classical" genres consist of various Eirms of vocal and instrumental music, 
both solo and ensemble, which ha\'e e\'oi\’ed (.n’er the past 1,300 years. 
Qi^iaku — frequenth' called the oldest fornuif orchestral music in tlu‘ \\ orId 
— is a form of court music that was imported from China during the Tang 
dvnastVy in approximately the seventh century (A.D.). The instruments used 
in this ensemble are derived from Chinese models and the music itself 
is said to be intluenced by Chinese, Indian and Korean music t)f that period, 
Narrative music from the Middle Ages describes the battles between the 
Genji and Heike families that took place during the twelfth century, to the 
accomplishment of the a four-stringed lute. The mc;st commonly used 
instruments today include thk^koto (a thirteen-stringed zither), the slnwiiscn 
(a three-stringed lute) and sfiakuhachi (a vertically held bamboo flute). 
Together, these instruments are stimetimes used to ftirm a trit> known as 
stmki/okii, for which many chamber pieces were written in the Tokugawa 
period (1600 to 1867). 

The major theatrical ftirms, noh, kabuki and binnnku, wAy heavilv on 
music to convey dramatic action, and are generally classified as "classical." 
Noh, a slow-moving form c^f theater w hich uses elegant gestures and 
sophisticated, though archaic, language, reached its zenith in the fourteenth 



century. Often featuring ghosts and spirits as main characters, )wh 
developed under the sponsorship ohthe aristocracy and lias retained its 
elitist connotations through the years^ and buumkii, or puppet 
theater, on the other hand, gained popularity among the townspeople of 
Edo (present day Tokyo) and Osaka during the Tokugawa period, and is 
still popular with lower middle-class merchants in those two cities. 

'"Folk" and "Classical" Music 

Music labeled "folk'' in japan includes folk songs (luiiii/o); and the 
predominantly instrumental musk* associated with Shinto or Buddhist 
ritual and celebration {uiinzoku ^cino). Folk songs are often associated with 
a specific geographical region of Japan and, indeed, the style of singing 
and melodic structure differs widely from region to region. For this reason, 
in large cities there are groups such as "The Preser\ ation Society of Aomori 
Folk S(.-ngs," organized bv people from that region who gather and per- 
form their own folk songs. Miuzoku ^^cino, or folk performing arts, also \'ary 
greatly according to geographical IcK'ation and ceitain fornis of music (such 
as miU^iiri-bayashi, or ensemble music t;f .die Shintc) festi\'al) are usually 
associated with specific events. (For example, the music of tlioGion Festival 
of K\'oto difiers in form and content from the music of the Sanja Festival 
of Tokyo, etc.) Music in this category — usually perfc)rnied on a variety 
of flutes, drums, and gongs — has traditionally been pla\'ed as an ciffering 
to the gods and, until recent vears, W'as not heard cuitside of the festival 

While such criteria as professionalism of performers and class distinc- 
tions among audiences mav at one time ha\'e marked music classified as 
"classical" from "folk," today performers and audiences oi both categories 
cannot be strictly differentiated by such guidelines. Idowever, a sense of 
elitism is still associated with the "classical" arts, and it is frt)ni this categtnA* 
that Japanese government officials prefer to select music that will repre- 
sent Japan in foreign countries. And without the financial backing of 
government and business groups, exponsi\'c theatrical pn'iductions such 
as knbuki and famous master musicians cannot be supported to undertake 
such t(Hirs. 

In japan itself, traditional music is still practiced and listened toby manv 
people, who hear it at small recitals, in large theaters and owr the radio 
and tele\'ision. On the whole, however, cemtemporarv japancseare more 
cognizant of Japanese and Western popular songs and Western classical 
music than Ihev are cif traditional classical and folk genres. The post-war 
edi .ational system, which has stressed Western music in its singing and 
instrumental instruction, bears part of the responsibility for this situation. 
Currently, if the casual visitor to japan hears any kind ot traditicmal music 
there, it would most likely bo folk song. Rilk songs remain the nuist popular 
form of traditional music toda\’, both in terms of amateur and professional 


performance and record sales. Television programs regularly feature pro- 
fessk>nal folk singers and amateur folk singing contests. 

Performances can no longer easily be classified as "folk" 
or "classical," except for political purposes. 

A review of Japanese settlement in New York State is useful in 
discussing the performance of traditional Japanese immigrant music. 
Japanese immigration to the United States began in the latter half of the 
nineteenth century with the establishment of diplomatic and trade rela- 
tions between the two countries. Some of the earliest immigrants to Neu' 
York State were students, businessmen and consular officials, who arri\'- 
ed as earlv as 1876. Within the Slate, Japanese have tended to settle in New 
York Citv or in its surrounding suburbs, and early bu.^-'inessmen in that 
city were active in importing chin aware, ceramics, silk and art work. In 
the first fiftv veais of immigratic)n from Japan to New' York, two social 
groups emerged: the relati\'ely affluent diplomatic officials and 
businessmen on the one hand and the pemrer workers on the other, who 
consisted of da\' laborers and the sailors who jumped ship and remained 
in the United States illegally (Smith 1948: 336-37). It was members of the 
former group (such as Rvoichiro Arai, who built up the silk trade between 
japan and the United States and Cho/^o Koike, consul general in New York) 
who established the Nippon Club in 1903 and, together with proniinent 
New- York business and professional men, the Japan Society in 1907. Both 
of these organizations remain active sponsors for the performance and or 
teaching of Japanese traditional arts toda\' (Reischauer 1982: 16). 

Bv the eve of World W'ar 11, clear differences between the New York 
Stale and the West Coast Japanese populations had emerged. First, the 
New York population w*as much smaller, numbering onl\' around 2,000 at 
the time of the attack on Pearl Harbor, compared to 110,000 residing on 
the West Coast at that time. SecotuiU', there was no geographically based 
community in New' York City that could be cemsidered equivalent to Los 
Angeles' Little Tok\o or to San Francisco's Japantown. The majority of the 
New York Citv Japanese population was scattered throughout Manhattan 
and the other boroughs. Buddhist and Christian churches evolved into focal 
points for intra-group socializing, but for the most part, social interchange 
with Americans of non-Japanese ethnic backgrounds was less restricted 
than on the West Coast. According to one sur\'ey conducted in the pre- 
war period, 51% tT Japanese men in Ne\v Vtirk State had married non- 
Japanese women (Smith 1948: 337). 

With the outbreak of World War II, JapaneseMi\'ing in New York State 
were mit forced to relocate* to camps, as the\' were on the West Coast, but 
many comnninilx’ leaders were arrested and interned on F.llis Island for 

a period during the war. In the post-war years, immigration from Japan, 
which had been virtually halted from 1924, was resum.ed in 1951 and an 
influx of upper middle-class Japanese, mainly businessmen and their 
families, brought the Japanese population in New York State to 19,794 by 
1970 (The Ethnic Heritage Advisory Council 1978: 109). 

Several distinct attributes of the present Japanese population in New 
Yoi’' State can be deduced from this brief historical survey. First, the 
Japar-ese population has been small compared to that on the West Coast, 
and on some levels, social assimilation into the larger population has pm- 
ceodeil at a rapid rate. Secondly, a social gap has existed for several decades 
separ/iting the elite from the majority of the Japanese population, a distinc- 
tion which is fed even today by a continuing influx of native-born Japanese 
who head div'isitms of major Japanese corporations or who assume im- 
portant diplomatic positions in New York City. Thirdly, intra-group solidari- 
tv has been disrupted by a cultural gap between the early immigrant and 
American-born Japanese on the (me hand and the post-war immigrants 
on the other. Members of the former group, many of whom grew up speak- 
ing hnglish exclusively, feel more at home with American customs than 
those of the latter group, who were raised in Japan, In terms of popula- 
tion figures, the Japanese born in Japan overwlielmingh' outnumber thexse 
born in the U.S. : as of 1970, approximately 70% of the Japanese population 
was foreign-born, to 30% America n-b(')rn, in New York State, In contrast, 
the percentages are almost exactly tiie opposite for native- and American- 
born lapanese in the state of California (U.S. Department of Commerce 
1970; 12-13). 

In New M)rk State, earl\' perfc')rmances of Japanese music we- eld 
nithnlv k»r the lapanese communit\- and consisted of presentations i»\ a 
tow teachers o\ classical music (mainly koto) and folk dance. The latter fre- 
<.|uenllv took place at Japanese church gatherings. Otherwise, classical per- 
tewmers from Japan organized infrequent tours of the stale, presenting kabuki 
dance, ^imk\/oku and m;^autn (song deri\x'd from the kabuki theater) music. 
A major change then took place from the 1960s, when the Japanese 
economic recoverv began to ad\’erselv affect political relations with the 
United States and the Japanese government became keenly interested in 
presenting Japanese culture to the American people. Simply put, the ra- 
tionale behind this interest w’as based on the»r belief that Americans only 
saw the "economic animal" side of the Japanese, and that having the op- 
portunity to appreciate the cultural side of their nation might soften the 
Americans' perception of the Japanese people. So, through the Ministrv 
of Fioreign Affairs and Japan Riundation, and w’ith contributions from many 
major corporations, regular tcnirs of kabuki, uoh, buuraku and prominent 
sol(» classical performers have been sponsored. Such tours have indeed 
spurred the interest of American audiences, as exemplified by the ap- 
pt'.aranu’ -)f the kabuki actor Bando Tamasaburo in 1983 in New ^tirk, w here 
lie became something of a cult figure. 




Government-sponsored tours of classical peifonners aimed 
to soften Japan's economic impact. 

Given the previously discussed population statistics one might sur- 
mise that traditional Japanese music activity \\v3uld be initiated and sup- 
ported mainly by the segment of the Japanese population that is recently 
immigrated, rather than by the more acculturated Japanese who were bom 
in the United Stales. However, an exarrh nation of such music-making in 
Mew York State reveals the surprising conclusion that participatory music 
is supported at least as much, if not more so, by the American-born 
Japanese as bv those born in Japan. In fact, this support appears to be in- 
creasing with the younger generations. The reasons for this lie in basic 
generational differences between the Issei, or Japanese-born "first" genera- 
tion, the Nisei, or American-born "second" generation, and the Sausei, or 
"third" generation. 

Modern Preferences 

Among the American-born Japanese, generational differences exert a 
striking influence on musical preference. In Buddhist churches in Manhat- 
tan, for example, three different generations each ha\’c different attitudes 
toward the use of music in their church. The oldest generation, the 
Japanese-born Issei, is nicest comfortable with chanting Buddhist texts and 
prayers in the Japanese language. Their children, the M/sc/ born in America 
before World War II, grew up in an era when it was important to mmimalize 
tensions with the majority culture, and thev are more accustomed to sing- 
ing Buddhist h\'mns that aie set to organ accompaniment and written in 
four-part harmony. On the other hand, tlie children of the Nisei, the Sausei, 
have gained confidence in their identity as "Americans" and many view 
their Japanese backgrounds as symbols of pride and difference. Some 
Sausei, who grew up speaking onl\- F-nglish, Iia\’e begun studying Japanese, 
are traveling to Japan, and are forming groups that study and perform 
Japanese traditional music. 

In contrast, the musical preferences of the post-war immigrant popula- 
tion of Japanese tend to reflect musical life in Japan today, which stresses 
popular and Western classical music, not f^a^aku or koio music. This main- 
ly upper-middle class Japanese population is simply unaccustomed to 
listening to traditional Japanese music on a regular basis. For them, an even- 
ing at a Broadway musical is much more enjoyable than an evening at 
kabuki. Ironically, many Japanese in New York often find that thev are ex- 
pected by their business and social circles to attend and support the 
Japanese traditional music performances taking place there — performances 
tliey might never attend back home in Japan. 



So-Daiko, Japanese Taiko Dmmniers. Photo In/ Martha Cooper, rourtes]/ Cit\/ Lore. 

If any one form of traditional Japanese music can be said to thrive 
among this Japanese-born population, it is the study of the koto. Several 
teachers (also post-war immigrants themselves) give lessons to pupils who 
arc mainly Japanese females. (In Japan, the koto has long been considered 
an appropriate instrument for females to study and perform upon.) Those 
teachers sponsor student recitals, in which they may themselves participate 
as soloists or accompanists, but such ewnts are normally small and ntit 
widely publicized. 

Among the American-born Japanese, music-making tends to focus on 
folk forms rather than on classical instruments such as the koto. An impor- 
tant performing group in the Japanese community in New York City is a 
drumming group made up mainly of third-generation Japanese-Americans. 
Called ”So-daiko," this fourteen-member ensemble plays a variety of large 
and small drums using coordinated movements and dance steps. In some 
pieces, the transverse bamboo flute (yokobue), gong (atari-i^ane) and other 
Japanese instruments arc also used. The origins of this "taiko” (meaning 
''drum'") playing can be traced to various ft>rms of folk drumming, par- 
ticularly from western Japan, that go back hundreds of years, to ancient 
agricultural rites. Specific pieces that are choreographed and composed 
by members of this or either taiko groups, however, tibvitiusly ha\'c a more 
modern origin. 

One regular performance e\^mt of So-iiaiko is the Cherrv Blossom 
Festival, which takes place at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden each spring. 
Most of their perform . nces, except for I heir tnvn recitals, accompany event.s 



S(i-Daiko linwiwin;^ hi Flu^hhiK^, Qutrii:^. Photo by Martha Cooper, courtesy City 



I t 

that are oriented toward Japan and Japanese culture. However, members 
of So-daiko cUim that it is not only a Japanese identity that they are interested 
in exploring and projecting through their music, but an Asian-American 
one as well. Indeed, several of their members are Chinese-Americans and 
the group performs annually at such events as the Asian /Pacific American 
Heritage Festival, held at Lincoln Center in New York City. 

Perhaps the most important participatory musical events in the Japanese ' 
community is the annual o~boH dancing that takes place in Riverside Park, 
New York City. 0-bo}i dancing, a form of folk dancing that is still common- 
1\' performed in Japan today, takes place in mid-summer as a part of Bud- 
dhist ceremonies honoring ancestral spirits. At the Riverside Park event, 
a traditional dance teacher leads a group of dancers dressed in yukatn, or 
summer cotton kimono, in the more elaborate dances, which they have 
spent several weeks rehearsing. C^nlookers, Japanese and non-Japanese 
alike, are invited to participate in the simpler dances. So-daiko usually par- 
ticipates in this event as well, providing the music accompaniment and 
pla\'ing a few solo pieces. 

The general tendency of American-born Japanese to participate in folk 
music events and Japanese-born Japanese to be involved in classical events 
(if the\’ are invoK^ed with traditional Japanese music at all) may be seen 
as partly a function of the events themselves and partl\' related to differen- 
tiated backgrounds. Folk events such as dancing tend to stinaulate 
the participation of many people and the process of instilling comnaunity 
spirit among the Japanese is reinforced. Classical e\ ents, on the other hand, 
are aimed toward the Japanese community Their presentation is linked 
to cultural pride and education in the riative Japanese musical traditions 
for the benefit of Americans as a whole and, tc this end, native-born feel compelled to show their supptirt. Furthcrmtire, w’hilc manv 
of the pre-war immigrant group came from rural areas of Japan, the ma- 
jority of the post-war population comes from urban areas. Thus, the pre- 
war group and their descendents ma\' feel more comfortable with the folk 
forms of Japan, while the urban dwellers ha\'e a n'lore classical orientation. 

The role of Americans not of Japanese heritage in pmpagating tradi- 
tional Japanese music has risen m significance in the past few \’ears in New 
York State. Most of these musicians acti\'el\' perform and teach classical 
forms of music, such as music for the shakuhachi and and iiankyoku 

ensemble music. Perftirmers such as Ralph Samuelson and Ronnie Seldin 
on the ^hakiihachi and Hamid Burnett an the sluvjiinic}! play reguiarlv with 
Japanese performers and with their own students (who also tend to be 
non-Japanese) in recitals and lecture-demonstratitins. These performers 
have all spent a period of years studying their chosen instruments in Japan, 
some starting with an academic background in musicoUigy. Their aclivit}’ 
is significant not only in that they themselves perftirm, teach, and lecture 
to Americans on traditional Japanese music. l:ach of these performers also 


encourages masters from Japan to perform in the United States and 
facilitates such music-related connections between the two countries. 

Non-Japanese participants are important to the 
maintenance of musical forms. 

One reason such non-Japanese Americans have become so important 
to the traditional Japanese music scene in New York may lie in the fact 
that fewer Japanese professional musicians are willing to relocate to the 
United States at the present. With their artistic careers based in the Japanese 
setting and taking into account Japan's high standard of living, most master 
performers believe they could not benefit professionally or materialistically 
from emigrating to the U.S. Thus, these Americans, having studied the 
Japanese language and culture over a number of years, fill a gap that ex- 
ists in traditional Japanese music performance and teaching. 

Finally, the role of institutions in presenting traditional Japanese music 
in New \ork State cannot be ignored. Institutions such as the Japan Socie- 
ty and the Asia Societ\', with their relativelv large budgets and heavy cor- 
porate sponsorship, are the most activ'e in organizing and sponsoring the 
large-scale musical events. In recent years, these have included kabuki, 
buurakii and ki/ofjni performances. Smaller recitals have been sponsored 
by such organizations as the Society for Asian Music and the Traditional 
Japanese Music Society. 

In summary; both classical and folk genres of traditional Japanese music 
are amply represented through performances in New York State. The 
hetereogeneity of its practitioners — from Japanese-Americans to native- 
boni Japanese to those not of Japanese heritage ~ can be seen as a sign 
of a different set of values, identities and goals in music-making that, one 
may surmise, are often shared with other immigrant groups. We might note 
that the generational segmentation among Japanese-Americans, the 
preference of nati\'e-born Japanese for "familiar" (i.e.. Western) music in- 
stead of their envn tradititmal music, and the importance of non-Japanese 
who have made a commitment to establishing cultural links between Japan 
and America, all correspond to phenomena found in other immigrant com- 


1. In ihis .utidc, llic phrase 'tradilional lapatu-sc musu” will apply liu»selv U> llu‘ bodv ul music 
porlurmod in that country Lx’fore the introduction ol stnm^ Uyslorn influences during the Mei|i 
Rosioration (beginning in IHliS). 

2. Such a distinction is not itself generic tc> lapanesc* conceptual trann*\\orks but is den\<‘d from 
Western iru'dc'ls. Traditic»nal performers themsehes rards' use sUch lerminoUigs- in lapan; rather, 
rmeucologisis and other outside observers tend to do so 

X I lere. and througlxiut this article, the term lapanese" akuie will rc*ter U) all the* .e of lapancse 
descc’iil. both born in the United Slates and in lapan. unless otherwise specified. 



kiihi-Rf-xn^ c in n 

{■thnk' Ad\ I'.ory Ctniiuil 

^?7S riu“ 1 \piTK‘mt‘ nl I,ipaiU‘sc‘ AnuTkvJns m Mu* Lmto*.i suitc-s s.m lr>mus,.n I.ipnru-si* 
Amoriion Oti/t-n'' I ca^ui . 

Kcisciviiier. hduin 

WK2 Kipan StuicK W\\ ^ork. lapan 

Smith Bradtord 

hn.S AnuTuans tram lapan I’hiladc'Iphu and \ow ^hik l.B I ippiiunti 
U nopartnu'iK ot C omnuTi c' 

nr'> )apam*se C hinese, and f'ilipiiit*s in thi‘ I niu-d states Washmi;tnn l>C 1. Dept ot 
t (tmmeia- 

( oiU(‘\ liiitir\ 

l‘C2 I asi Airos*s ihe Pautu ^.mia Barbara, (. alit and i^Ktord Xmerkan Biblioi;raphK (.’enter. 
C lie I’re'-s 

B*7n lapancse -Xmeriians ,n \ew ^»»^k \ C asr S(ud\' L'npubiishi-d masters thesis, Columbia 

I ni\ersit\‘ 

|aira/hhe\ \ .\ and s(. IV\ak eds 

,\sian .Ameri' an \liistt in \oriii .Xmerua In Sc-kkted tVpeits m rthnnnuisKoK>^\ \'l 
M«ilm. Uilham 

I.ipanesc Miisk and Muskal Instrument-' Kutland \l aiul loku’ Charles ri,;tle C n 

lapane-'e folk Musk |^^kh^)^d Reiords. I l.srrib'^ 

The k''ndeke/a I)e\ilson Drums, \ektar Kee >rds r.ShthlS. 
lapanesc Musk ter Iwo Shakuhaeli!. l\ihkhord Recurds I |sl 7^Sh 

Kut<* Kuiniula ( lasskal Son^ (. vdes K- the C -real Mastc-r c’umpu-'ers ui 17th t»* ISth c enUir\ lapan 
l\rkhurd Rckurds I I SI 

The Kotu Musk et lapan. Nonesuch I \plurer Senes, US-7200^ 

lapanese Temple Music' /en Ni-mluitsu ,md "^an^ahushi (. hant- I \ n». herd 1 |s| 7H7 
•Musk trum the kabuki Nonesuch InU-rnatiunal Series. I I-72BI2 


Tu|ie l.inda 

RI-( kAlMI-NDM) I Islf N!\C. 



Vol XIV, \Y)S. 3-4, 1988 

Country Dancing in Central 
and Western Nezu York State 


. . . then Ctiir.e the singing mtister, and thu dancing par- 
ties, ai*id society was sociable. 

Many a pit)neer recollection, such as tiris one from 'Aunt Susie, ' recorded 
in an 1870 Diinsvillc Express (3' 20), attests to the importance of dancing 
among western \ew‘ Yn'k's earh' i\ hito settlers. From \^cw England, frinn 
eastern New York, north from Penns\ivania or straight from Europe they 
came, in the last decade of the 18th and through the first part of the 19th 
century. Cabins were built, then hxmses, bair»s, shops and churches, and 
for those \.vhose reiigitni div! nc'jt object*, there was soon room ftn* parties 
and dancing masters. In an 1814 Ontario Rcposihm/ we find the following 

DANCING SCHOOL,. Mr Shepherd, respect full\’ informs the 
inhabitants of Canandaigua, that he intends to open a SCI lOOL 
on Tuesda) the llth inst. at the Ball Room in the Jail, for the 
purpose of instructing young Ladies and Gentlemen the polite 
and fashionable accomplishment of Dancing ... A number of 
new Cotillions, etc. will be introduced [OR 10'4 1(S14). 

In the same year, young He/;ekiah Beecher of Livonia Center wn^e in his 
diary aliout a fasiiionable July 4tii dance at a neighboring luaise: 

lime 30 , , . at cx-ening went L) Mi. Warren's to ask m\’ partner 
lO go to independence ball. 

July 2S A.M. wo finished hoing ctirn, P.M. helped my father 
at hay. I had a pair of pumps of m\* Father" 
luly 4 M A.M. . , . went to Lima and got a pair of stockings 
S1.73 two quarts of rum $1.25 etc. , . . and got Mr, Young's 
mare and got me ready to go to the ball, P.M, vvent to Mr. 

W and wailed upon Eliza to the ball at Esq. Gitibs and 
was very aggreably entertained with a supper and wine 



at the tabic. There was tw'enty two couples, two violins, 
we dispersed about one O'clock. Our bill was S2 . . . 
( 18)4) 

The actual dances done at Esq. Gibbs' were almost certainly the same 
varieties of country dances which dominated social parties and fashionable 
assemblies throughout the Northeast in the early 19th century: contra 
dances and cotillions, the former in longways sets and the latter in squares 
of four couples. Individual couple dances were nc.t so likely, although in 
1814 some older or conservative folks might have still done a minuet and 
young people were about to be introduced to the waltz. 


First Couplo, 

L G 

0 1 
Second Couple, 







y orm of tbc •Spaziiib, and aliO of 






Head of the set. 










105 }0 

Figure 1. 

The ilvvc main fonutifiou> fry country dances tfwifi Hour iS59:2). 

Country dances in general can be traced back to Imgland, wlwre as 
earlv as 1651 John Piayford published dancing instructions for sets of 
couples in linos, circles or squares — the three principal configurations still 
found in America today (see Fig. !). Of the tb.ree, the longways set was 
clearlv the favorite and by the 18th century dominated social dancing in 
both England and the American colonies. The square formation, on the 
other hand, became fashionable in France, where local dancing masters 
transformed it into dances called cotilior.s (or "cotillions.' as Americans 
usually spelled it). These, in turn, were introduced to American society 
in an influx of French culture during and after our revolution.^ 

Unlike the English stvle contra, which usually repeated one dance 
figure up and down the line \^’ilhout change, the now cotillions alUn\ed 
for constantly varying chorus g>atlerns or "changes," which could be in- 
troduced "as the music will admit or fancy dictate" (Blanchard 1809: 20) 
Thev also allowed for a good bit of fancy footwork from those who a^uld 
do it."* A growing demand tor ccUil lions in American ballrooms, along w ith 
their sometimes impromptu nature, soon demanded the services ot a 
prompter or caller, a job that usually fell to the accompanying music. ian. 
Calling had not been part of the Fnglish or French traditions, but h\- the 

1820s it was part of American country dancing — and has remained so 
to the present.^ 

In 1847, George Saunders, a Rhode Island dance teacher, came out with 
his New and Sciaitific Sclf~hisiniciiu,*^ Ssiiool for the Violin, the first important 
book on how lo both play and call cotillions and contra dances. This work 
was popular in western New York" and gives us good insight into what 
must have been happening in at least some local ballrooms. The cotillions 
are no longer 'Trench"; gone is the fancy footwork; gone are the constant- 
ly changing chorus figures. What is left is the smooth vs'alking square dance 
as Americans were going to dance it into the 20th century (see Fig. 2). 

Figure 2. 

A cotilluni party (illustration fnmi a)i 1857 West Candor dance invitation), 

Saunders gives us several well organized sets of interesting figures, each 
Of which mav, at the caller's discretion, be ended with a liv'ely finale or 
"jig" as many called it then, (and as many still do) ” Tne dances abound 
with still familiar calls: grand right and left, pnanienade, four hands round, 
ladies chain, grand square, etc. He also implies that the caller may occa- 
sionally "mix the company all up" with surprise calls (Saunders 1847: 79). 
Squares are emphasized, but there arc contras as well, plus a dance in the 
circle formation, the very popular Spanish Dance. 

By the 1820.S the rather free-spirhed cotillions had been joined by the 
more formal "quadrilles," high society square dances which were ideally 
performed with genteel grace and set to music frequently taken from the 
late'it op>ora. By the Civil W'ar era, the term "quadrille" was being used by 
dance masters and on dance cards^^ to mfer to most square dances, whetlier 


Wednesday Evening, March 20th. 

1, Contra Dance, ^ 

"*2. Cotillon. _ 

3-- Spanish 3)anco. _ _ 

~^ilop Wait’/. 

8. Contra Daiieu. 

9. Spanish Dance. 

10. Cotillon. 

11. Hop Waltz — (llanjo Solo.) 

12. Spanish Dance. 

13. Cotillon. ~ 

14. Tempesti " ^ 

Figure 3. 

A mui-19iJi cctitun/ div,u:c pn\\^riv)} (pbur UfikrtoiV}}). 

fancv’ games’" (see Fig. 3). Two formal quadrilles which went under their 
own names were the Caledonians and the Lancers, the latter of which was 
still being done in some rural New )fbrk dances at least into the 1930s” (Fig. 4). 



Round Dancing 

An especially important development in popular dancing throughout 
the United States, western New York included, was the arrival ot round 
dances: the wait/, the gallop, the polka, etc. These were feared bv many 
as being too sinful, as couples embraced in ballroom position and spun 
around the room. Others simply objected to their taking up too much space 
on the dance floor and too much time away from the quadrilles. 'The 
sociable and graceful quadrille, the lively ctmlra-dance, and the inspiring 
Virginia reel, in which young and old were wont to join, must ull give way 
to the monopoly of the aristocratick waltz," complained one voung lady 
to the New York Mirror (2 9l^S39). "And ftir what? For the pleasure of a few 
mustachioed foreigners, who presume to dictate the fashions ol our socie- 
ty . . ." In spite ot such complaints, the nmnd dances prospered and 
became an important part of most public: dances. Indeed in the larger cities, 
as well as on college campuses, the round da ncc?s soon began to push the 
country dances off the program. By the first decade of the 20th centurv, 
a typical high school or college dance might well have no country dances 
at all and a Rochester policemen's ball might haw only one or tw'o quadrilles 
or lancers — bv 1915, none. 

~ wX,,. 

I -yL-.v.Dkll.l.f- 

j *.oM KA liANCr -M.oniC Mu%x 
3 WAi.rz & licnt 

* I.ASt'hKi. 

5 t\.N 7 R A, OANCI-: - I ■ S 

< |-«*l KA 

; — CC-sTkA IU\. !• I jn 3 


)pct4 K«.-! 

i < 'WKa tJANU. 
• 'MI TZ 
I I.ANt I kS 
.. t 1 KA I 
.. \ Ak'.ol 


. 1 1 - n\\! I J-. i< .... 1 

,i t,iS IK \ iiASi I . f.-li-l -s 

• v I'ol K A KL V 

t I S IKA l‘ANt r -.n K.'tl 
.1 < .1 VI KM t I 


U VI 1 / 

V' 'I’kll I 1 

-4 < . .N I k \ t'A.'.f I 1% f^atj Fwicy 

j -W.Vi.r/ 


.' viai-ku.m 

-x- ■ 



. Ji kv. 

4f*. 'k 

Ji /( ' 

Figure 4. 

A Buffalo unit tiiviev, March lx IS74. 




Figure 5. 

Dancini^ party in Chamberlin Hall, Ischua, c. 1905. 

In runil areas, however, country dancing has managed to survive side 
by side with whatever new couple dances have come into local vogue. From 
the waltzes, schottishes and polkas of the 19th century (which may still 
be done at round and square dances) to the turn-of-the-century cakewalk, 
the two step, foxtrot. Charleston, jitterbug, or modern free-style rock and 
roll, if the band could play them, they could be done between the squares. 

Somo were highlighted in contests, with prizes to the best performers. 
When the round dance music started to be stylistically very different from 
that used for the country dances, most notably in the jazz era, many 
organizations took to hiring two bands, one for rounds and another for 
the squares. In other cases band members would become fluent on two 
instruments (e.g. violin and saxophone) so as to better cover the two styles.*^ 

sA Sathorns New Sarn 

JUST EAST OF STANLEY on the Stanley-Geneva Road 


Dancing 9 till 1 





Benefit of Stanley Baseball Club 


Figure 6. 

Poster for a barn dance, 1920s. 


Places and Seasons for Country Dancing 

Up to the last decade of the 19th century nearly all dances, from rural 
house parties to urban society balls, included country dances of one sort 
or another. In the city, the music might have been supplied by a well trained 
orchestra and the dancing guided by a professional dancing master. In the 
rural party, on the other hand, both music and calls were often provided 
b\’ a single self-taught fiddler (see ^^g. 5). Between these extremes, of course, 
lav a wide range in the types of music and dances experienced by central 
and western New Yorkers — and there was often something special about 
visiting dances in a setting different from one's own environment. A 
Syracuse w riter recounts the sleighing-dancing parties of his youth (in the 
1870s or '80s); 

A fa\‘orite di\’ersion of the period was the straw ride. This re- 
i|uired a big box sleigh, filled to a depth of se\ eral inches w ith 
tresh straw, a suppl\' of hot bricks and a girl for everVdad. The 
bricks were superfluous, however, if your companion was not 
adverse to snuggling up. Straw ride parties usually drove kiut 
to the country hotels at Cicero, Brewerton, or South Bay for a 
big chicken or frog's legs supper. The dance which followed in- 
variablv ended with a Virginia reel. The music was provided 
bv a little orchestra of country fiddh rs — and how' they could 
plav "Turkey in the Straw," particularly after they had been 
warmed up with a few' drinks of hard cider. The leader, general- 
ly quite a character, kept time b\' stomping his foot as he called 
out the figures: "Salute vour partners . . . forrrard an' back . . . 
swing the opposite ladv . . . gents in the center . . . all hands 
round . . take vout* places . . . first couple sashay down the 
middle!" It was usualh' long past midnight before w'e started 
btK.s to town, snuggled in the straw', holding hands beneatii 
the buffalo robes, sleigh bells jingling, steel runners creaking 
against the hard-packed snow. When we left the girls at their 
homes we bade them adieu in song* "Good night ladies, good 
night ladies . . . we're going to leave you now." 'And thank God 
vou are! ' would sometimes come from an upper window, in 
an irritated male \'oice. (I\iweil 1938; 24d). 

Such sleighing parlies to a neighboring town or perb.aps as a surprise to 
a rural home. \ver(‘ common frenn the 183Us up until the dominance of the 
automobile in this century. 

The colder months were, and are still are, the principal time for danc- 
ing: eXtober through April. For agricultural communities this was a time 
of reiluced field work and increased soeiali/ing. It w'as also a peri(>d rich 
in inolidax's, any of which might he a good excuse for a special party 
I h«mksgi\ ing, C hristnicts. New Years. Washington's Birthday and St. 



Lent put a damper on the old partying season . . . but 
the fact that St. Patrick's Day usually fell during Lent 
did not seem to bother Irish-American dance organizers. 

Patricks Day were all commonly celebrated with feasting and dancing in 
both city anJ small towns across New York State. It is true that Lent put 
a damper on the old partying season — many a dance series ended by 
Ash Wednesday — but the week before and the Monday following could 
be all the more festival because of it.‘^ The fact that St. Patrick's Day usual- 
ly fell within Lent did not seem to bother Irish-Americdn dance organizers. 
Dancing was less frequent in the summer, but did occasionally take place 
at July 4th celebrations, pioneer association, GAR or family picnics, village 
old-timers' davs, and at "Harvest Parties" put tin at rural inns. Fashionable 
urban style dancing could also be found at summer resort areas (e.g. 
Saratoga Springs, Avon Springs, etc.) and, b\^ the later 19th century- in 
numerous lake-side amusement centers.'^ 

Country Dancing in the 20th Century 

By the second decade of this century, squares, contras and circles had 
largely disappeared from cit\' and college dance programs, and on small 
tou'n programs which catered to the new and popular. Thev did survive, 
however, i:‘. innumerable dances put on by rural fire halls. Odd Fellows, 
granges, ctirnmunity centers and like orj\anizations; in celebratitins or fund 
raisers for new barns or shops; and in the once ubiquitous neighborhood 
Iiouse parties^"^ (see Fig. 6). It was the htnise parties in particular, with all 
generations taking part, which hung on 'he oldest wavs of doing things. 
Contra dances and circles, for example, toc)k too long for a typical 1930s 
cn»n'd paying their way into a public fire hall dance ora rtiund and square 
di ce at one of the lake pa\ dions.'^ At a house party, htiwever, with the 
floors firmly propped up from below, and small children sleeping on the 
side or up.stairs, time was sece>ndarv and fashion unimportant. 

Flovd Wood hull described his pnifessional debute at a house party near 

Dad was an old-time fiddler and nn* mot lie r played the 
guitar and did the calling, d here were no sound systems in 
those days and she had a sharp voice. They used to pla\‘ most- 
ly at dances in farmers' htimes during the winter months. 

I played m\’ first dance with m\’ folks at Elmer I lann's farm- 
house near Greatsingers C'orners. I W'as 13 wars old . . . let's 
see, that was back in 19]6. 

I can remember the night like it was yesterda\'. 1 played 
chords on the piano. We started at 8 o'clock and tliev didn't stop 



dancing until five in the morning. At 11 o'clock my little finger 
gave out and I finished up with my thumb. 

We played at the foot of an open stairway and they were 
dancin' three rooms down and three up. The furniture was all 
out in the snow. It got crow'ded and some huskies took the kit- 
chen range, with the wood fire in it, out to the yard. Then they 
swept up the soot and started dancin' in the kitchen." [EA: 

A 1926 house party in the town of Richmond (Ontario County) led to the 
following vivid account of mixed generations and musical styles: 

This little burg is agog and agape over two surprise parties held 
in the vicinity the past w'eek. As was noted in last week's 
Gazette, Annebelle Reed was given a party on the evening of 
February 2d. Miss Dora Somerville was the victim the follow- 
ing Friday night, the occasion being he** 21st birthday ... As 
is usual with parties at the [Reed's] there w'ere cards and tables 
for those who cared to play pedro. Riley Ward was present with 
his old violin and was the center of attraction. After all had ar- 
rived at the party the m.usic began. Wayne Woodruff struck up 
with "Hail! Hail! the Gang's All Here." Both classical and old- 
time music were played until supper was served. Supper over, 
the young enjoyed dancing. Wayne played the music fc)r the 
Charleston, bunny hug and fox trot types, and Clark Reed and 
Riley playing the old-fashioned pieces. Leon Barrett called off 
the old-time dances, and in the language of the streets, "he was 
a scream." It all reminded the writer of the old days when Clark 
Reed and Herb and Joe Bennett furnished the music for dances 
around the "Hollow." Herb usually played second fiddle and 
called off. He would sometimes do this in a sing-song way or, 
as 1 remember it, something like this: "Alamen left, balance to 
the corner; four hands round; down the center, met your sweet, 
swing that girl right off her feet." As Samantha has it, "although 
1 do say it as hadn't ought to," I must admit that in this age of 
bobbed hair and fig-leaf mode of dressing, when the young men 
did swing their sweets at the Reed party, gay and gaudy garters 
were a bit more in evidence than in the old days when ladies 
wore long trails tc) their dresses (LG 2^3n926)’^ 

This description brings up two significant characteristics of contem- 
porary .mral country dancing throughcHit the area: the vigorous swing and 
the singing call. Right up to the early 20th centur\', the formal dancing 

masters persisted in teaching a swing or "turn ' which was nothing more 
than taking two hands with your partner and walking once around to place. 
Yet as far back as living memories go (and somewhat further in occasional 
press or literary descriptions), an energetic swing of several revolutions 
has been more the norm. Indeed some of the favorite figures of 20th cen- 
tury dancing seem to be little more than an excuse for lots of hard swing- 
ing. The exact origins of the swung may never be traceable in the maze of 
unrecorded influences on 19th century folkw'ays, but in modern times it 
has clearly gone w'ell beyond the dictates of the old dancing masters.^^ 

'' . , they took the kitchen range, with the wood fire in 
it, out to the yard, swept up the soot and started dan- 
cin' in the kitchen." 

The origins of singing calls, as now dominate central and western New 
York rural dancing, are equally hard to pin down. Important dance instruc- 
tion books from Saunders (1847) to Lovett (1925) all describe simple pro- 
mpting, encouraging the caller to use a clear speaking voice to give only 
the basic calls. In practice, however, this often became a series of shouts 
or hollers as the caller tried to make him or herself heard over the music 
and the sound of the dancers.^'^ As popular songs were sometimes used 
for dancing, even in the old cotillion days,^" it seems but a small step, in- 
deed nearly an automatic one, for some musician-callers to sing the calls 
out to the tune they are playing. '"Happy Bill" Daniels of Dryden and Ed- 
ward Peterson of Gencseo were two particularly influential fiddler-callers, 
both active before 1900, uiio were remembered as often singing their calls 
(MMPLP 1;24/1926 and CD 11/30 1923). The more common tradition, 
however, was still that of straight prompting -- or shouting -- until the 
advent of P.A. systems with professional square dance bands in the 1930s. 
With the sounds of big band crooners and cow’boy singers everywhere, 
and with public square dancing experiencing a significant revival (under 
Henry Lord's encouragement^ 0/ leading young callers such as Floyd 
Woodhull and Monte Williams- started singing their dance calls to well- 
known song tunes (Fig. 7). Many of the dance figures were unchanged, 
but the ^4yle of presentation was new — and very popular. Wbodhull's sung 
call.s, some borrowed and some original, were especially successful and 
took on a kind of pop status in the area. "Have you danced the new 'Sour 
Apple Tree'?" asks a 1938 Woodhull poster.^’ 

Later callers have continued in this tradition, still using many of the 
singing calls from Woodhull, Williams and their contemporaries, but also 
sometimes making up new ones in the same style. And as Woodhull 
himself did. rural New York callers have not been shy about using good 

calls they hear at somebody else's dance.^’* Similarly today's rural dancers 
have generally learned what they do by watching others dance. The most 
popular figures are not difficult and the total number of calls one needs 
to know is small — about a dozen will suffice. One does need to adjust 
a bit, however, to match the way people vary their response to the same 
calls from place to place or even from square to square at the same dance. 
Swinging, right and left through, grand right and left, do-si-do and others 
all have local versions which are distinctly different from what is taught 
in clubs or schools. 

Figure 7. 

Dance poster. 1938. 

Today s dancers also apparently men'e faster than their forebears at the 
turn of the century. Not only have average tempos picked up (by 15% or 
more over the earlier formal dances), but the number of beats allotted for 
some calls ha\'e been reduced. Right and left through, for example, which 
used to occupy a leisurely 16 steps over and back, is now done in a \’erv 
quick 8.-^ The briskness becomes all the more noticeable with a caller who 
delights in getting everyone going the wremg way with a surprise call. 

Where they still oaur regularly in central and western New York, the 
rural round and square dances are lively, often boisterous events (see Fig. 
8). The core of the dance crowd is made up of those who grew up from 
the late 1930s into the 1950s — and the\’ dana* well. The number of younger 
ftilks dancing \aries from place to place, depending on a number of fac- 
tors: the age iT the hand members or the abilit\' ot the band to play newer 
repertoire, whether or not beer is si*r\’ed, the degree of \outh participa- 



tion in a grange, the proximity of an active clogging club, etc Where there 
is a wide range of ages, the dress varies correspondingly from coat and 
tie and dresses for the oldest to jeans and sneakers for the teenagers. 
Specific square dance costumes are rare, though one does see a few western 
style shirts, especially if the band is country western. 

Each rural dance is its own activity/ staged by local folks for their own 
and their neighbors' enjoyment, and sometimes for a small profit to the 
sponsoring organization or as a charity fund raiser. Advertising is generally 
through small notices in local Pennysavers, by signs in front of the hall, 
by fliers or cards, or by word of mouth. Everything about the event tends 
to be based on how it was done last time. A rural dance is a social time, 
where the visiting can be as important as the dancing. It can also be a 
nostalgic time, as participants hang on to a valued bit of local tradition. 

Figure 8. 

Dancing "Alabama jubiicc" to Acconiion Zeke ami Rambliu Um at the Oakfiehi 
Fire Hall, December 5, 1987. Photo: lame> Kimball. 

Contemporary Club Dancing: Western Squares and Coiitras 

Clubs or club-like assemblies have long been part of the social dance 
scene in central and western New Mirk. From the earliest "select cotillion 
parties," through numerous fashionable dancing clubs in the 1880s and '90s, 
to ballroom and western square dance clubs of today. New York dancers 
have organized into groups of similarK’ sticiable and technically proficient 
dancers. L-nlike public dances, or even some of the old house parties, club 
dances could be made safe from rowdini’ss, from intrusion bv unwanted 

visitors and from inability to dance. With the right kind of music and a 
capable dance leader a good time was assured for all. 

The modern or western square dance clubs still serve in this function 
throughout upstate NJew York, where one can find a dance somewhere 
within reach nearly every night of the week. Born out of a combination 
of folk dancing, recreation, and nationalism in the 1940s, and inspired by 
costumed demonstration dancers, such as those trained by Lloyd Shaw 
in Colorado, the idea of standardized square dancing began to catch on. 
The immediate legacy was an out-pouring of square dance books, 
magazines and records, the establislirnent of national affiliations and the 
rise of widely-known square dance personalities and experts. 

American country dancing is flourishing today in cen- 
tral and western New York. 

Contemporary western club dancers, and there are more than a thou- 
sand in the Rochester area alone (Galik 1987: 5), dance in a very different 
environment and style from their cousins at the granges and fire halls. First 
of all, there is a large number of calls, about 68 for average club dancing 
and many more for advanced levels. Where repetition and simplicity (with 
occasional suprises) is the rule for rural dances, the clubs thrive on varia- 
tion and complexity. Swinging is deemphasized as are ’ he familiar visiting 
couple figures.-' Instead we find a maze of carefully choreographed walk- 
ing patterns with most of the dancers moving at the same time. We also 
find a colorful collage of special square dance costumes.-” New dances are 
being created all the time, to be done to a wide variety of recorded tunes 
— many of a decidedly modern character, more disco than country or folk. 
As in the grange dances, most know what they are doing, though here 
it is because everyone must complete several months of basic lessons before 
they can join in the regular dances. Unlike the grange, once a western club 
dancer knous the standard moves and etiquette, he or she will have no 
trouble dancing with clubs anywhere in the country. Local idiosyncracies 
are rare. 

One other tradition of American country dancing, and a relatively new 
one in cc'ntral and western New' York, is the urban contra dance club. This 
was primarily a phenomenon of the 1970s and grew out of a mixture of 
influences: changing folk dance trends, the revival of old-time string band 
plaving. the bicentennial hoopla and some very capable dance leaders with 
experience in the thriving New England contra dance revival.-'* The initial 
stylistic influences were clearh’ from New* England, as were the first dances 
to be taught. From their earlv popularity in the area, the revived contra 
dances have found their principal adherents in, or on the edge of, univer- 
sity comm inities in Ithaca, Rochester and Syracuse: young professionals. 



graduate students, graying and not-so-graying folkies, mathematicians and 
doctors — there is relatively little overlap with either the more blue-collar 
western square dance clubs or the rural dances. The contras themselves 
are often complex and, as in western club dancing, the fa\'ored figures are 
those in which everybody is kept active.^^ Also in common with the .western 
club dancing is an active appreciation for new dances and new tunes. The 
use of live music, on the other hand, informal dress and a generally 
boisterous spirit (including very vigorous swings) have more in common 
with rural dances.’^ Like the western club movement, contra dancing has 
its newsletters, a national affiliation and celebrated teachers. Dances are 
actively taught and beginners are encouraged to join in.^^ 

All three versions of American countr}' dancing, the rural round and 
square dance, the modern western square dance club, and the urban con- 
tra dance, seem to be flourishing at the moment. Each style appeals to 
a significant segment of the dancing public, and although the details vary 
greatly from one to the other, those active in each see themselves as par- 
ticipating in something special which is not only healthy and sociable, but 
which has roots deep in American tradition. 

in <iddition lo bourcos bt'low. the’ .lulhor would like io credit ond thank the following per- 

sons for their contributions to this paper; Barbara Butonhof. Richard Castner. Thomas Bohrer, Norm 
C'arlson, Ron Christensen. Mark FTimilton, Mr. and Mrs. Iheodore Ingalis, Roger Knox Clarence 
Maher. Mvrtle Merritt, Sally Squire IVtlengill, Di^ug Seymour, Phi! Van Arsdale, Paul Wells, and Glenn 
Wakefield. Technical assistance was provided by Ray Mayo Ron Pretzer and Karon Park. 

1 Some churches were /and a teu still are) strongly opposed tv> dancing, deeming it either im- 
moral or frivolous. Among the few which generally did allow dancing in the last century were 
the I pisenp.ilKuis, L'niversalist^ and Roman C.itholics. Irish Catholic churches, in particular 
used dances as primar\‘ fund raisers — often l(» help in building the church iiselt or adjoining 
social halls.' 

2. The pumps mentioned hero are probably light weight dress shoe.s suitable for da ni mg. Such 
shoes would fit the fancy steps which were still part of much social l nemg at that time. 

2 The Flavtord collection went thiough many revised *ditions from I6f>l - 1728. The Umgways 
ft)rmat, al.^eadv the most common in the first c*ditiop, totally dominatei.1 the work in the 18th 
century. "Country dancing." as used in this article, and as described by Playford. includes all 
those dances which are done by one or more couples in set formations: squares, lines, or circles. 
The term "country dance" has aiso been used more specificalh for the longw'ays nr "contra" 
dance, especially in the Wth century' when this form wa-- seen as older fasiiioned and more 
ruTtcl than the latest cotillions or quadrilles being taught jn urban society. 

4. TK ' contra dance remained generally ti'.'- more popular into the early Thh jenturv. A 
Sou l Lollt'itwi for example gi\e> the -J.ince figures for 30N ''omn dances, h'ut tmlv / 


^ ‘^ei» Mnrri'-tm (T/7b) 'or a good desciiption ol tlu‘ wa\ uitillions were put together in llu late 

18tli ami early I'-lh centuries. Also included is a good vliscussiim of earh' contra dancin ’ and 
the l\pesof lancy steps which were fashionable in the late It^lh -md eady Wth ceotiiiies. 

h. The Boston Cotillion Band nd^'ortised in 1823 "a person who is well a-^quaintr-d with playng 
and cailinj., a great variety of new and fashionable French otillinns ." (CC i 4 1823) 1 he leader, 

7 Several copies of the S,mnders violin method hiUe survived from western New 'iork sources, 
•1 muv aho be found ad\ei tiscd for sale by lnv*al dealers in the mid-19th century 

8 e.g. r/a' Hait-Ki'om Comp>wu"\ ( 1848: 24) and I lilgrove { 1^4; 82-4) both refer to ending a set with 
a |ig Wesi«^-rn New York callers still a>mtnonlv use the term to refer to the li\<4v last fige e 
ol a set of squares 

Printed dance cards, c'spn iallv cernmnn trinn the IHbOs through the WUls. were used lo keep 


M. Mann, i* later mentioned as having been engage'd "to assist in calling the cotilliims" (CC 

10 7 1B26). 


Ir.ick of \vh<it dance was coming next and witli I'ne had agreed to dance it. 

10. Howe (1858) uses ’’cotillion” with both the old and new nieat^ings, as ‘iyiumvmous with quadrille 
and as '’French Fancy Cotillion/' meaning the new party games — termed ’The German” 
in America. Some rural musicians continued to use the square dance meaning until at least 
the end of the cenlurv' 

11. Clarence Mahei (born ‘89*^) of Stone Chumh, N.V. descril^es the demise I't the Lanteni in his area: 

Well, theu used to have a Lancers Quadrille regular Lancers rrcasic for it. but 
I never liked it. but I used to play it. But 1 didn't like it . . Walt (Dikherj didn't 
used to like to call it, 'cause nobody used to half know how to do a lancers 
Floyd Woodhull recorded Mre ’’last ot tiie Lancers’' for Rdl.raft Records in 1950 (Sittrori’ Damcv 

12. The two band round and square dances were common in ihe 1920'S and '30s in central and 
western New York. In some cases the bands alternated while in others, as in the Attica grange 
hall in the i920s. a square dance band (Sam Bey) played upstairs while 3 ja// hand (Tiny Gior) 
played downstairs. As recently as 1964, the Hornell Policemen's Ball featured a square dance 
band as one of th-cc bands playing in three different halls at the -amc time. 

13. .Masejuerade balls bec ame popular in the Pre- lenten season in the last halt v)f the 19th century 
especially uhere there were large concentrations of Germans. This would appear to be. .a least 
in part, a legacy of European Carnival tradition. Also carried over from Europe was the com- 
mon custom of Easter Monday dances held by many Catholic parishes. 

M Such centers seem to hav-e sprung up on nearly every lake in the area. m:my evolving into the 
fully developed amusement parks of the 20lh centur)'. The open sided dance pavilions, which 
often dtHibled as roller skating rinks, supplied summer employment to many popular musi- 
cians and diince managers. Where permanent pavilions did not exist, as for a village ]uiy 4lh 
dance, a special t*pen air platfoiTii was frequently built for thor:x,casion. Pa\ ed streets and parking 
lots and air conditioned halls did away with this need. 

15. Occasional barn and shop square dances still exist, as do reguiar dances pul on bv a iiandful 
of granges, fire halls, American Legions, etc.; but house dances seem to haw \anishod rshogether 
bv the mid-20th centuw, as other forms of amustment and m?w life stvlv'^ fook over 

l(> Lvle Miles of the Horneilsvillc Hillbillies emphasized the importance to the summer dance hall 
managers of keeping the program moving right along LMncers were often charged b\' the dance 
espex'ially in the 1920s and 30s, and shc^rter dances meant greater profits (?rliles 1987). Erie C'ounty 
caller Ken Roloif remembers the Virginia Keel, but said he would not niumally dt' it for a pay- 
ing emwd, it took too long fRoloff 1987). 

17 Memories t>f similar house dances abound anu»ng folks who grew up in rural centra! anc’ western 
W-w York before World Wai II; and these memories also attest ti> the continued use at such 
parties of not only square dances, but frequently contras as well F.ivorites among the latter, 
d«)wn to the 1950s in some areas, included the Virginia Red, Opera Keo! and the Crooked S. 
Other longways or circular country dances which are remembered in the area, but were cle arly 
It'S, wide-spread by the 20th tentury were Luly WxisiungUm Monty Mosk, I'Ik’ Irish Irt^t, 
Flowers of bdmboio, Portland Fancy, tlie CircasMan and bkilian lirdes, iho Sctiteh Reel and 
the Fiieman’.s Dance. 'Fwo related and well known mixers whith were sometimes dtme in a 
circle wore Old Dan Tucker and the Paul lonos, 

18 l-'arlier descriptions of vigorous swinging include' Ihe following, trom a lamestow n ’’Old Ivlk's 
Dario’ in 1874 • 

When I'at [ Fak oner j and partner (Mrs. Alvord) arrived at that particular phase 
t)f the ma/v dance known ,v. ’Lidies to the' Right!” both went in for all there 
was in the figure. Neither of them we are certain missed a single demi-sena- 
quaver. and the final ’’balance and swing j ardners” was il’uslrated with 
marvelous pigeon wings an.d wound up with a velocity perfectly bewildering 
and >et in a blaze of glory . . . (|D/- 2 12 1874) 

The fancy footwork t^f the balance and pigeon wings is gone trimi rural N'ew Y»rk dances — 
ih.MJgh it surx ivos to some degree in Ne\\ Itngland contra dancing - but the ''IxwNildering veloti- 
t\” would fit some grange dance swings today. ’The Spanish Cavallero” is a good and very 
popular example o| a dance built alnui'-t entirely on swings. Swinging in coi.lemporars run;! 
o.ances general!)- uses cither stand.ird ballroom positkm c:r the Safety" j Ki'.ition w ith leM hands 
joined between the couple and right hand'- around vour partners waist ,ho step ma\ be vitlu = 
a brisk walk around or ”bu.'/‘’ step (these variations are among those discussed in Gowiog 
W57: 2U. 30-31). 

f-ii/abelh Woodhull (Flovds .Motherl was typical of a great many rural Cullers in the pre- 
microphone age uhi) t«HiId shout caIN all night to a full luiuso. Some callers 'amk to 
megaphones to he n out. 

20 From the I830s ihro-igh the ead\ 20th cvnturx'. publishers put out a run of opei aUc and popular 
songs arranged for dance sets. Welch i i89l: 377) remembered early popular buffalo or heslras 
placing quadrille'- of the laresi minstrel tunes such as Old Uml'* N'ed” and "Old 1 ucm.’t/' 

21 Henry Ford’s acti\e interest in ri' old linn- music and dancing was trequentlv noted m 
aro.i newspapers in the late 192()s, and .ifter his example v,e see nuiaer\»us ”(>ld fiddli'r" n’r- 





and a gradual rise in the number of advertised publiv. fA]uare dance*. The 1926 edition 
of Ford's dance book (Lovett) sold \scil in central and western Now York, a.s did also the 1943 
ediHon. which, includeo a section of ranging calls. 

22 Of the Horncllsviile fiiUbillics. 

23. Wood hull used such diverse tunes as "Take Mo Out to the Ball Game," "When The Ble*om Is 
On Tb.e Sage/ and 'The G;d I Ljeft Behind Me," Ifie last being one of the few singing calls 
widely known to the pre-microphone g. “eration of callers in the area (U also appears in all 
editions of Lovett). The Woodhulis adveiiised their new sound equ'prr.ent in iulv 1935 {L$G 

24. Every njral callei the author has interviewed has talked about learning calls from and sha ing 
calls v/ith other callers. Few mention books as sources, though some have mentioned records 
— especialK those of the Woodhulis from the late i940s. Floyd WoodhuH meniloncd frequent 
guest callers at his dances, frf)m whom he would learn calls arid vice versa (Woodhuli 1986). 

2\ R«'*cornmended tempos tor early 20th century' quadiilles and lancers averaged about 112 steps 
per minute as opposed to about 125 to 130 for many conten^poi'Afv rural cal.’ers. Mita H-all Marion 
who' danced to both "Happy Bill" Daniels (in the 1910s) and the Woodhulis (in the 1930s and 
‘10s) remembered that the calls were very similar, but ihat the Woodhulis were nt.itiecably faster 

2b. Of the many dances the author has visited in western New York, the most conservative wa« 
the 1987-8o season with Ken's Westorn i^mblcrs at the East Pptnbrake Grange The ';.quarcs were 
s'eiy much in the l^-kls Wood hull style and ihe rounds, played with accordion and swing guitar 
lead, were mostly* foxtrots from the 1920s to the '50s. Other rounds incl -dr? polkds, walt/es. 
scbottisches, jitterbugs a rhinelamic!, a ryv wait? and a tango. Vvhorcas all age groups were 
teprer3er*led, the average was clr?arly older than at Ramblin’ Lou'^- dances at the Oakfield Fire 
Ha.H. Her: there was a good mix cf rounds and squ.=?rcs. with the squares still of the Woodhull 
variety, but the music for the rounds was mostly contemporary coqntry. sometimes country*- 
rock (including a well played \ei5ion of Wipe Out"). Again ail age groups were represented, 
but in thijjcasf -here were significantly mort in the 20s and 3Ds isnge than at F.:>st Pembroke. 
(There was a '-so bf?tr ) 

27 Figures where one couple at a ‘.imc visits each ol’her couple in the set, performing the same 
patterns (e.g. circle tour hands ground, swing the opptjsite lady, etc.) with each. Such calls 
are centra! ic' rural darjov,. 

28. Thecc^slumos are ime of the mexst distinc tive features of mud^'in western dancing. To.,* womens 
urc'sses n particular, ivilh their curlc^us blend >>l C‘'.unrrv design and 195P.S parts crinolines, 
are immediately recognizable as VeUmging to dub dancers. If is interesting to no'e that the clubs, 
w hich feature the most mi^dcrn \ aritnhs of square dances, tend to use a sty li/cd oid-fa.shic»ned 
costume', while the granges ancl fire halls, \vhich fc'ature older dancc's stick with ordinary con- 
temporary d.’“ess. 

2^^ In parts of rural New England contra dane'es had acuialic sn-.vived as part of ordinal'^ 

small temn dancing; in mine i rb.m surmandiny,''. htmewe* and in somhern New and, 
the tradition waS clearly being broc^ght back as a rc'vKal .Anumg the most important t.»ance 
t*' .s to .ictively initiate modem contra dancing in central and western New Y<*rk w»'re Richard 
s_.,btnc.-r, a native ctf Maine, and Roger Knox, whe^ started dai >cing in California, but whci work- 
ed iloscly (as did Castner) v. ith New England dan^c leadei, Ridph Page. The folk dance mots 
are clearly se'en in n c- mtinued popularif; Tn%ing contra dancers t if doing F.un pean rciund dances 
(e.g. the horabo and the Norwegian pc lka). 

30. The contra dances once common in rural New >ork are c*ither unknemr. tti the contemporarv 
club.s, are simply tcui old fashioned (i.c. not complex enough) or are seen as too hackneve'd 
(eg. the Virginia rcc'l) fe'-r regular nu»dern 

il. This boisterous spirit, together with rc>cenl rcxits in an edc'ctk e.u ironment, ha< led to interesting 
mixes of traditicms. It is not unusual, for ex<imple, to find Ithaca contra dancers applying Ap- 
palachian c'logging mm os to New England figures, accompameo bv original lev. ish-slyle tunes. 

32 Most teaching is done as part of the orciinary dance evening, rather than rcxjuiring lengthy 
class involvement. 

33 There are potential prciHerns. Ii.nv“ver. in all threx- lraditu*ns Ihe rural dances are most thre'dten- 
ed by a shortage of up-and-coming voung callers, the western clubs bv general owr-complexitv 
and v.irving Ic'vels of expertise; and the a ”itra dance's hy the e\cr present thrc'at of changing 
urban lads 

REPERi .Nu-;b cin n 

New: papcT*. 

Columbia Gazette (BosUm. Mass.) 
C ortland flemoc rat 
F.lmir.i Advi'rtisor 
Mmira Star-Cl.i/ette 

O ■* n 



JL>j Jamestown Datly Journul 

LG Livonia Gazette 

MMPLP Mount Morris Picket Line Post 

NYM New York Mirror (New York City) 

OR Ontario Repository (Canandaigua) 

The Ball-Room Companion. 

1848 New York: Leavitt & Allen. 

Beecher, Hezekiah 

1814 Manuscript Djar\', Used with perm is'- urn of the Department of Rare Books and Special Col- 
lections, Rush-Rhees Library, University of Rochester. 

Blanchard, Willard 

1809 A CoUeclion of the Most Celebrated Country Dances. Windst»r. V( 

Galik. Candace 

1987 Square Dancing J)t L'p.state (the maga/ine supplement to the Sunday Democrat and Chroni- 
cle). September 6, pp. 5-b. Rochester; Gannett Company Inc. 

Cowing, Gene 

1957 The Square Dancers' Guide. New York. Crown Publishing (..’.mpany. 

Hillgrove, Thomas 

18M A Complete Practical Guide to the Art of Dancing. \'ew York: Dick and Fil/gorald. 
Howe, Bias 

1859 Howe's Draxving Room Dances. B'^ston: Hubbard \V Suett 
Link. Charles 

1893 Unique Dancing Call Hook. Rochester, ,N.'i Charles Link 
Uwett, Benjamin 

1925 Good Morning. Dt^arborn, Michigan. Dt nrbom f'ubh.shing Companc. Published under the 
sponsorship of Henn.' Ford; new editions came o'U in 1926, 1941 and 1943. 

Marion, Nita Hall 

1987 Personal interview, August 21, HkS? 

. liies, I.yic 

1987 Personal interview, September 19, 1987. 

Morri.son, James P. 

1976 7wcnty-R>ur Earlv American Counlrv Dance'-, C otillions Keels .Now Yi>rk The Count p.- 
Del nee Souety. 
f*layf(>rd, John 

l65l 1 he English Dancing Master. Reprint of first edition, edited by U'slie Bridgewater and Hugh 
Mellor. London 1933 (Republished bv Dance Hori/on.-, New York) 

Powell, E. 

;93f) Gone Are 7hc Days. Boston. 

Roltifl, Ken 

1987 Comment oiode at a dance, Wivernber 21, 19.S7. 

Saunoers, George 

1847 Self Instructing School for the Violin Providence, RI; A \i Iz'land 
A Select Collectum of the Newest and Most Favorite Coimt'-v Dances, Waltzes, Keels (. •itiUu.ns 
i808 Otsego, N'.'t.. H. and E. Phinnev. 

Uotidhuil, f loyd 

l98f> Telepfume con\ersatK>n, Deceniher 22, 19.S6. 


Bionnor, Simon J. 

l'^87 Oid Time Musjc Makers of Ne*i% lurk Slate. S\raiU'ie. Svracuso Limor'-itv Piess 
Damon, S. K'ster 

1937 Square Daiuing. A History Borre, Masj> : Pai re Cii/.ette 
Durlacher. Fd 

l'?49 Honor V‘ur Partner New V'rk t ht Devin-, \daii ko 
Novell , Richard 

1977 .\ Time ti) Dance. Amernan Countiv Daiuing from Hornpipes to Hm Ha'-h .\e\‘ 'i 'rk 

St Martins Press 
IMman, Beth and R4ilph Page 

1937 The C ountrv Dane*' Book Nev. 3ork ,-\ 9 B.unos C nivipanv Kepnnted by 9{^>p|n t-, cir.’uiv 
Press. Br.ittleboro. ' 3, 'Xj, 

Vol. XIV, Nos. 3-4, 1988 

Music in New York City's Chinese Community 


During the 1860s, the area of Manhattan known as "Plow and Har- 
row" was home to only a handful of Chinese. This neighborhood includ- 
ed the land west of the Bowery and extended to Mott and Bayard Streets. 
With the completion of the transcontinental railroad in 1873, and an 
escalating anti-Chinese movement in the western United States, large 
numbers of Chinese moved east. By 1880, it was reported that New York 
City had a Chinatown with a population of 800 livmg in an area that 
stretched to Pell and Doyers Streets. As the population grew the area ex- 
panded to include the eight irregularly shaped blocks bordered by Canal 
Street on the north. Mulberry Street on the west, the Bowery on the east, 
and Worth Street on the south. In an unofficial count in 1940, these eight 
blocks housed 40,000 Chinese. 



77j(’ ci^ht hlockfi of Chiiiatoivu. 




According to a 1988 population estimate by the Asian/American Center, 
there are now approximately 310,000 Chinese living in the City. In Manhat- 
tan alone there are about 150,000, the overwhelming majority of whom live 
in Chinatown, which is expanding daily. Though other Chinatowns have 
sprung up in Q eens and Brooklyn, downtown Manhattan still functions 
as the focal point for nearly every Chinese commercial, social, political and 
cultural association. 

Since virtually all the earh Chinese immigrants were Cantonese 
speakers from the south China province of Guangdong (Kwangtung), the 
first style of Chinese music performed in the United States was Cantonese 
opera. Professional Cantonese opera troupes from China were first heard 
in San Francisco in 1852, and visited New York during the 1860s, When 
the Chinatoum Music Hall was opened in 1890 for touring performers, it 
was hailed as the first Chinese theater "east of California." A second New 
York theater opened in 1895. 

Prior to World War II, Cantonese opera was the primary Chinese 
musical activity in the United States. However, with the advent of miovies, 
and the increasi»^g difficulties of importing professional opera troupes from 
China, its popularity gradually diminished. Today in New York City, 
amateur Chinese music groups perform music that can be classified as one 
of four types: instrumental, Cantonese opera, Peking opera, and choral. 

Instrumental Music 

The folk music of China has always retlected the enormously rich diver- 
sity of its huge population and vast geography. In the 1930s, there was an 
attempt, promoted by politicians and Western-influenced composers, to 
create a pan-Chinese music. Different traditional regional folk ensembles 
were blended to create the modern "folk orchestra." Originallv. this pan- 
Chinesc music consisted of arrangements of both regional folk tunes and 
classical pieces for solo instruments. Eventually, composers began to write 
pieces specifically for the modern ensemble. These early arrangements and 
original pieces employed many compositional techniques used in Western 
art music. They standardized instrumentation; stressed uniform intona- 
tion and execution; and encouraged the development of new hybrid in- 
struments to widen the tonal color of the ensemble. Conferences were held, 
experiments performed, and new professional and amateur groups 
established. The now Chinese folk oiche.stra alsti fulfilled two social func- 
tions: first, it developed China's musical heritage in accordance with the 
government's ideal of creating a national music; second, it preserved tradi- 
tional and distinctly Chinese musical ek*rnents. Not surprisingly, such or- 
chestras eventally appeared in New York City ^nd in other 
Chi nese-A merica n co m mu n i t ies , 

The modern orchestral ensemble is divided into four sections: bowed 
strings, plucked strings, wind and percussion. The bowed section is the 


largest division within the orchestra and consists of the huqin family of in- 
stru- lents — * two-stringed fiddles which are held vertically, with the bow 
threaded between the two strings. The names of these instruments change 
in accordance with their size from the highest pitched jinghu, customarily 
seen in the Peking opera, to the dahu, the largest of the huqin. The erhu, 
the mid-range huqin, is the most numerous instrument in the orchestra. 
The four-stringed gehu, a modern invention based on the Western cello, 
also belongs to this category. 

"Music from China" perfonning at the Schhwucl Center for the Pcrfonjting Arts, 
Pace Lhiiversitif. Photo: Paul Liu, 1988. 

The next largest section consists of plucked instruments. This group 
includes various lutes such as the pipa (a pear-shaped four-stringed lute), 
zhongruau (a round four-stringed lute), and guzheng (a long zither with six- 
teen or more strings and moveable bridges). The i/angqi}i (a hammered 
dulcimer), ihough not technicalK' plucked, is also grouped with the plucked 

The ensemble's smaller wind section includes the dizi (a horiz.ontal bam- 
boo flute with one hole covered bv a thin membrane which produces a 
reedy timbre), xiao (a notched, end-blown bamboo flute), sheng (a mouth 
organ), and the sona and gua}t (two different types of double-reed in- 
struments), The percussion section consists of many different sized drums, 
gongs, cymbals, and clappers. 



There are three main styles of composition for the modern folk or- 
chestra: qizou (unison), hezou (ensemble), and duzou (solo-ensemble). Q/zoi/ 
style is reminiscent of traditional unison playing. The hezou style consists 
of traditional melodies, new compositions, and qizou pieces that have been 
harmonized. The liuzou pieces are like "mini-concertos," in which solo and 
ensemble sections alternate. Also included in this repertory are solo per- 
formances, duets, small ensembles, and vocal accompaniments. 

Modern orchestral music is almost entirely "programmatic;" it tells a 
story or describes an idyllic scene, as for example, in the pipa solo "Bright 
Snow in Early Spring." For the most part, the music is written in a cipher 
notation called jianpu (simple notation). Based on the mo\'eable "do," jian- 
pu employs numbers to designate pitches. 

The oldest and largest Chinese folk orchestra in the United States is 
the "Chinese Music Ensemble of New York.” Founded in 1961 by its pre- 
sent director Chang Tsuan-nien, his daughter Jcisephine Chang, and Pro- 
fessor Kao Yi-han, it consists today of 25 active members. The majority of 
the group are immigrants frcmi China, Taiwan or Hong Kong. Its members 
attend weekly rehearsals, and a small g'oup also meets for additional prac- 
tice weekly. 

The "Chinese Music Ensemble" presents two large concerts annually, 
one in the Chinatown community, and another for the general public. 
Throughout the year, the ensemble gives smaller concerts and lec- 
ture/demonstrations at libraries, colleges, neighborhood schools, and 
museums. Free music classes are offered to children during the summer 
months, and music instruction is available year round. In recent years, the 
En.semble has incited several prominent professional musicians to perform 
as guest soloists. 

"Music from China," another prominent ensemble, was founded in 1984 
by Susan Cheng and Tien-juo Wang. It holds an annual concert each fall, 
and since 1985, it has worked in conjunction with the Young People's 
Chinese Cultural Center on a Chinese New Years' performance. The group 
also gives lecture/demonstrations at colleges and libraries, and offers a series 
of presentations featuring different solo instruments. Professional Chinese 
musicians currently residing in New York are frequently featured, and the 
group has commissioned works from New York-based composers such as 
Zhou Long and Chen Yi. 

Chinese Opera 

Until the twentieth century, the term "Chinese theater" or "drama" 
referred to Chinese opera. Before the introduction of the "spoken play" 
from the West, all Chinese theater was a synthesis of song, speech, in- 
strumental music, stylized movements, mime, and acrobatics. Due to 
regional variations in music and dialect, there are approximately 300 dif- 
ferent types of dz/rtuy xi (regional theater). The Chinese opera is an abstract 


and highly symbolic art form. From the setting of the stage to the orchestra 
leaders drumming patterns, all facets of the opera have specific meanings. 
And regardless of region, all Chinese opera adheres to the same co iven- 
tions. For example, there are four stock character types: which in- 

cludes the male roles of scholars, gentlemen and statesmen; dan, all female 
roles (in the past these parts were always performed by men); the 
''painted-face'' male roles of warriors, bandits, and supernatural figures; 
and chou, the male clowns (and the only characters allowed to make spon- 
taneous jokes and use colloquial speech on stage). 

"Music from China." Win^ Quan p)la\/s the dizi. Photo: Paul Liu. 

The opera orchestra is seated on the stage to the right of the audience. 
All Chinese opera features a combination of percussion instruments: 


drums, clappers, gongs, and cymbals. The orchestra leader plays both the 
ban (clapper) and the daupi^^u (a small drum). Besides the percussion, each 
region has its own combination of string and wind instruments. 

The stage setting for Chinese opera is very simple, utilizing two chairs, 
a table and a carpet. These represent a variety of objects and places; and 
the actors further the symbolism by using mime and an assortment of por- 
table props. For example, a rod with four equally spaced tassels always 
symbolizes a horse, and the audience knows that an actor holding it is either 
leading or riding the animal. Or, if an actor holds an oar while jumping 
once and then bending at the knees, the audience known that he is board- 
ing a boat and crossing a ri\ er. 

Make-up and costumes are generallv very striking, but are especially 
elaborate for the actors of the ;7;;y roles. Jing characters are required to paint 
their faces in codified patterns, thus eliciting the name hualimi ("flower face," 
or more commonly, "painted face"). The costumes are decorated with dazzl- 
ing, intricately embroidered designs. The colors and motifs used in the 
make-up and costume symbolize the character's personality and status. 

New York City is home to two different types of Chinese regional 
operas, Peking opera and Cantonese opera. Clubs promoting both types 
of opera are active, but in different ways: Peking opera clubs are inclined 
towards public performances that attract an audience of bt)th Chinese and 
non-Chinese, however Cantonese opera clubs tend to be more private and 
member-oriented tirganizations. 

Cantonese Opera. In New York City there are four active Cantonese 
opera dubs, each with its own membership and its own headquarters. 
Although each group is dedicated to the prcimotitm of Cantonese opera, 
they do not give performances for the general public. In the past, it was 
scmietimes possible to see a fully-costumed Cantonese opera performed 
by a Chinatown-based group, however ttiday, the music is rarelv perform- 
ed outside the dub. 

The major function of these clubs is social; they se, ve as a place for 
their members and their families to congregate. On weekends, the clubs' 
headquarters are always filled with the lively sounds of people making 
music, eating, conversing and playing mahjong. Musical ability is not a 
requirement for membership, htnvever, it is necessary for applicants tt) have 
a "good character" as well as two recommendations from existing members. 
Prospective members are invited to attend and are observed within the 
community before membership is cTfered. The group expects the members 
io pay yearly dues and to periodically give donations. 

Each club has a small stage for the musicians to use. The stages are 
usually crowded with microphones, amplifiers and instruments — botli 
Chinese and Western. Western instruments, such as saxophones, violins, 
electric bass guitars, and trap sets, have been incorporated into the tradi- 



tional opera orchestra. 

The oldest Cantonese ope^a club in New York is the ''Chinese Musical 
and Theatrical Association," incorporated in 1931. (The group had existed 
informally for several years before this date.) Its current director, Stanley 
Chiu, has been playing and teaching Cantonese music for over 50 years. 
The group has approximately 100 members, not all of whom presently 
reside in New York. The walls of the club are decorated with photographs 
of part performances, some in full costume. In a corner of the room is a 
large altar dedicated to the god of music. Hua Guang. The statue of Hua 
Guang is flanked by the legendary masters of opera. Tin and Dao, and 
daily offerings are presented to these deities. 

Musical ability is not a requirement for membership in 
an opera club; an applicant must have "good character." 

The second oldest Cantonese opera club in Chinatown is the "Chinese 
Dmmatic and Benevolent Association" founded in 1926. That yea; there 
was considerable political turmoil in China, and several Chinese students 
who supported General Chiang Kai-shek decided to raise money by 
organizing a dramatic club based on the new. Western-influenced spoken 
theater. In 1936, many of the original members returned to China. This 
sudden exodus of actors gave director G.G. Wong the impetus to start a 
new music group under the old name. At first, the group played Cantonese 
folk songs "with a beat," and the popularity of this small group was so 
widespread that they were invited by President Roosevelt to perform at 
the White House. The group also performed full-scale Chinese operas in 
the community, and throughout the Northeast. These grand-scale perfor- 
mances ceased in 1968, and since then, the group has limited its perfor- 
mances to Chinatown association functions. As at other clubs, the 
Association maintains an altar for Hua Guang, the music god, and Tin and 
Dao, the two opera masters. The walls of this club are decorated with 
photographs of their performances, some dating back to the 1930s. 

W.T Chan organized the "Kyew Ching Musical Association" in 1956 
with nine other men from the same town in Guangdong, who had played 
Cantonese music together in China. Kyew Ching performs only tor the 
different business associations in Chinatown. It does not give public per- 
formances and has never presented a fully costumed opera. 

Finally, there is the "New York Institute of Cantonese Music," distinct 
from the previous groups because all its musicians were professionally train- 
ed in Guangdong. Director Chen Ho-kui formed the group in 1986 wdth 
six other young musicians. Although they do not have an official member- 
ship, their rehearsal space offers friends and family a place to congregate 
and socialize. 



In the future, these Cantonese opera groups nust rely on friends and 
new immigrants to maintain their membership. Without them, they will 
not have the financial resources from dues and donations needed to rent 
space in New York. 

Chinese opera in New York depends on trained im- 
migrants, as young Chinese-Americans are more in- 
terested in American popular music. 

Peking Opera. In the past, speakers of Mandarin Chinese (Chinese from 
the northern provinces of China and Taiwan) formed a small minority of 
the Chinese pc>pulation in New York. These people came later than their 
southern countrymen, and they were not laborers; most Mandarin speakers 
who came to the United States were students from middle-class 

Over 30 years ago. a group of these Mandarin-speaking students decid- 
ed to form a club through which they could socialize and play music from 
their home region. They had a great interest in Peking opera and felt that 
its performance was an important way for them to maintain their cultural 
ties. Since then, several other Peking opera troupes have been established 
in New York Citv. Howe\'er, since most of the members of these groups 
no longer live in Chinatown, or even in New York City, some of the clubs 
have failed. Today, the most prominent Peking opera groups are the "Yeh 
Yu Chinese Opera Association," and the "Renaissance Chinese Opera 

'I'he operas performed by both groups are identical to those given in 
China, however, they are sometimes . breviated or edited due to a lack 
of performers (some operas require a cast of more than 30) and ability (most 
members of these groups are not professionallv trained). The recent ar- 
rival of several professional Peking opera performers from China and Taiwan 
has allowed these groups to stage more complete versions of some of the 
previously edited works. 

Peking opera, like all regional Chinese opera, is an oral tradition but 
because of its popularity in China and Tiiwan, scores and librettos are now 
published. These serve primarily as aids, and are not substitutes for the 
many years of training required. Today, people also learn opera roles by 
studying recordings and video cassettes of professional actors. 

The "Yeh Yu Chinese Opera Association" was founded in 1958. It has 
a membership of approximately 100, but not all its members are active. The 
Association is directed bv Charlene Teng and Kao Shang, who believe that 
the purpose of the Yeh Yu is "to preserve and promote this unique theater 
art and to introduce it to the people of America." To meet this goal, Yeh 




Yu presents 6 to 8 fully-costumed performances each year both in and out- 
side the City. 

Jea Feng-shi is the founder and director of the "Renaissance Opera 
Society." He formed the group in 1984 as a social club to attract people in- 
terested in Peking opera. At first, they did not plan to present public per- 
formances, but they now give six concerts and lecture-demonstrations 
annually. Jea believes that one of the purposes of his group is to introduce 
Peking opera to the people outside the community. 

Both groups lament the fact that many young Chinese-Americans are 
more interested in American popular music thar in Peking opera, which 
they feel is old-fashioned and irrelevant to their lives. Thus the troupes 
often rely on new immigrants who have studied Peking opera overseas (for 
example, many schools and institutions in Tiiwan have Peking opera 
groups), as well as on newly arrived professional musicians from China 
and Taiwan. 

Choral Music 

Chinese choral music is based on Western models. Choral groups, like 
other musical groups in Chinatown, function as social outlets. Parties, trips, 
and informal get-togethers are held throughout the year. There are two 
Chinese choral groups in Chinatown, "Univoice" and the "Hai Yuen 
Chorus." A majority of choral group members are from China, Taiwan, 
and Hong Kong, but others are overseas Chinese from Malaysia, Si'igapore 
and Indonesia. Quite a few members are either born in New York, or have 
grown up in the city. 

"Music from China." Yai An ylai/s the guzheng. Photo: Paul Liu. 



The "Hai Yuen Chorus” was organized in 1984, and shortly thereafter, 
Chu Chung-mou, a renowned tenor and conductor from China's Central 
Broadcasting Chorus in Peking, then living in California, v/as invited to 
become the group's director and principal conductor. Approximately 40 
members, ages 16-60, attend its weekly rehearsals. Its repertory includes 
traditional arrangements of Chinese folksongs, modern Chinese music for 
chorus and small vocal ensemble, solo Chinese art songs composed since 
the 1920s, and some Western art music translated into Mandarin. Cantonese 
songs are performed only at small communit) concerts. Each year the group 
gives at least four community concerts, and an annual performance out- 
side Chinatown is scheduled each spring. 

''Univ'oice" began in 1980 when several Chinese students met to sing 
Chinese folk songs at Columbia University. The group has since grown 
to include 40 active members, ages 22-50. Since 1983, their conductor has 
been Ms. Yuan Hsiao-yin, a graduate of the Manhattan School of Music. 
Rehearsals are held weekly, and a hired v'oice teacher instructs the group 
in music theory and vocal training before each one. The group still sings 
Chinese folk songs, but their repertory now includes formal choral pieces 
from both Chinese and Western art ti'aditions. Small concerts are scheduled 
in Chinatown, and an annual concert has now been held outside the com.- 
munity since 1981. Voice students from New York's conservatories are in- 
vited to perform as guest artists. 

The Future 

The different genres of Chinese music found in New York City all func- 
tion to sustain traditional Chinese culture. AU)ngside language, cuisine 
and holiday festivities, music is an important marker of ethnic identity to 
club members. The common goal of each group is to be not only enter- 
taining and educational, but also a means of renewing .social and cultural 
ties. In some cases, the music may even be secondary to the social aspect; 
and, as we have seen, it is both a love of music and the possession of a 
good character that are the entrants to several clubs. 

Although a variety of music clubs are in operation today, a very small 
percentage of New York City s Chinese community actually participates. 
Today's Chinese population is faced with a multitude of new cultural and 
social choices. As with any population, some people are not interested in 
music. Those that are may not wish to actively engage in musical activities. 
Others may spend long hours earning a living which severely limits their 
leisure time. In addition, some members of the Chinese community have 
chosen to pursue mainstream American recreational activities. Yet, there 
has been a constant demand for traditional music in Chinatown since the 
neighborhood's formation. 

As the Chinese population expand.s, new immigrants will undoubtably 
bring new and different regional styles and talent to the New York Chinese 
musical community. This should insure that there will always be a group 



of people thcit will have the love of music, and the devotion and ambition 
necessary for these dubs to prosper and flourish. 


I would like to c'xpross my gnKilud'' [o m\ who gavo ol thoir tinu’. Sptvial thank^ Ut Susan Chong. 

Han. Kuo- Huang 

ht7S Tho C'hinoso Concept ol I’rcigrani Music. .Asian .Music It). 1.17-3S. 

H7S The Modern Chinese Orchestra. Asian Music 11. 1.1-41' 

Mackerras. Ctilin 

H7S The Chinese Theatre in Modern rimes; From lH40ttp the fVesent Ha\- Amherst, M.A: Cniver- 
sitv ot Massachusetts 1‘ress 
Scott, A. C . 

H57 The Classical Theatre ol China. London: Simstpn Shand [.td 

HS.4 The Performance of Classical Theater. In Cidin Mackerras, od., Chinese Theater: l u'm its 
tVigins to the Present Day. Honolulu L'niversity ol Havsaii I’ress. 118-44. 

Zung. Cecilia S. L 

h>M Secrets ot the Chinese Drama: .A Complete Cuide to AUions and Svmhols as st*en in the 
IVrtormance tpt Chinese Dramas K'ess ^ork: Henjamin Plom 

Music on more accessible labels include- 

China; Shantung Folk Music and Traditional Instrumental Piete*- I n-shenj; 1 nsemble of laiwan 
\onesuch i I 721)81. 

C hii-ia's Instrumental Heritage, l.iang Tsai-ping .ind His Croup, l.ynchord ! I bT 7^>2 
Chinese C')pera; Fxcerpts from Cantonese Music l^rama. Ix)!kwa\s F\\ 8880. 

D>lus Lintern. The Chinese Classical Orchestra. Lvnehord 1.1 72l)2. 

The Ruse ol the F'mptv City: A Peking Opera. Tolkuavs 8882. 

Shangtung- Music ol Confucius' Htmieland. Lynchord 7112. 

i’aul Liu, CeoTge U>e, Wayne Uong. Chang Tsuan nien. Clian Sun-mon. and l.lien U'iciitman. Chinese 
names are given in their proper form, surnames first, unless an Idiglish name is used 

RL-coMMi;\i)}-;n rv.adwc 




Vol. XIV, Nos. 34, 1988 

"Our Own Little Isle": 

Irish Traditional Music in Nezv York 


The role of Irish traditioncil music, song, and dance among Irish im- 
migrants in America and particularly in New York can be viewed as an 
e\'er-changing indicator of comrnunilA' identity and ethnic pride. These folk 
art forms sur\’i\'ed years of cultural and social turmoil, from tamine and 
religious persecution in Ireland to mass immigration to America. Once here, 
assimilative attitudes on the part of the new arrivals threatened to destroy 
these traditions as they were considered by many to be embarrassing relics 
of an antiquated lifestyle. Fortunately, interest in these ancient forms has 
done a full turn-around over the last fifteen years and today, Irish st’/siui.s 
(informal music sessions), cc/7/s ^dance parties), concerts, competitions, and 
festivals abound, revitalizing these expressions of heritage by the Irish and 
irish-American communities in the U.S. Today the Irish music community 
in America is extremely acti\'o, presided over by great senior masters and 
reinvigorated by the energies of the newest wa\*e of young Irish as well 
as their American-born cousins. 

New York has become home to a majority of Irish immigrants o\'er the 
past century. Although the Irish settled Muoughout New York State, the 
largest concentration of these immigrants and their descendants have 
clustered downstate, primarily in the five boroughs of New York City, Umg 
Island, and parts of Westchester. Not surprisingly, New York City has also 
been a major center for Irish traditional music in America, for this 
reason, this paper focuses exclusively on the Irish music cciu mity in 
downstate New York. Like the name of the jig — "Our Own Little Isle" 
— each successive generation of Irish immigrants has helped create and 
further augment their cultural niche in New’ York City by establishing an 
enormously vital community, one where their native traditions ol in- 
strunaental music and dance remain the strongest and most active in 

Three Centuries of Irish Music in America 

A variant form of Irish traditional instrumental music tirst came to 

101 ) 


America as early as the 17th century with the original Irish immigrants who 
settled in rural areas up and down the East Coast — from New England 
to the southern portions of the Appalachians. These early Irish immigrants 
were mainly descendants of Presbyterian Scots who, in the 17th century, 
had been relocated from Scotland to assist the English in the colonization 
of the northeast section of Ireland. Their musical tradition was non-Gaelic 
and much closer to a Lowland Scottish style. Furthermore, once in the 
United States, these Ulster Scots exhibited closer ties with Scotland than 
with Ireland (McCullough 1974:178). 

Within these isolated areas, the music of the settlers mixed with that 
of their English and later, their French-Canadian neighbors, as well as with 
other ethnic-American styles. Over time, the combination of musics 
developed into what is now old-lime Southern fiddle music and its Nor- 
thern cousin — contradance music. 

Two centuries later, massive numbers of native Irish immigrated to 
America to escape the devastating effects of the Irish potato blight of the 
1840s and in search of greater economic opportunity. Unlike the earlier set- 
tlers, these new'ly-arrived Irish moved to large urban centers throughout 
America, notably New York, Chicago, Boston, and Philadelphia. 

Much of Irish language and cidture did not survive the 
transition to urban America, but music proved surpris- 
ingly resilient. 

The Irish language and other aspects of traditional Irish culture did 
not survive this transition from a rural, agrarian-based life to urban 
American lifestyle. Interestingly, however, traditional Irish music proved 
surprisingly resilient in the face of this major social upheaval. Master players 
(T traditional Irish music — fiddlers, uilleann pipers, button accordionists, 
and flutists, among others — found regular work in the vaudeville circuits, 
dance halls, pubs, and other venues. Moreover, unlike those that remain- 
ed behind in Ireland, these Irish musicians in America during the late 19th 
and early 20th centuries were greeted with great respect throughout the 
immigrant community (McCullough 1974:180-181). Support for Irish music 
and dance was so strong that, in 1892, the "Golden Age of Irish Music" 
was formally ushered in upon completion of New York City's Celtic Hall, 
a major venue for Irish music and dance located at 446 West 54th Street 
in Manhattan.’ Built wdth funds raised from the immigrant Irish and Irish- 
American community, Celtic Hall served as "the Mecca for the best class 
of Irish sociables and gatherings for many years."^ 

By the turn of the century. New York had become a focal point for Irish 
music when record companies reacted to the market potential of the 
"Golden Age" and began producing hundreds of 78 r.p.m. recordings. Bet- 




ween 1900 and 1940, many outstanding Irish traditional musicians — most 
of whom lived or had lived at some point in New York City — were recorded 
by such major companies as Columbia and Victor, as well as by smaller, 
ethnic music labels. Widely listened to by the Irish in both America and 
Ireland, these recordings today are invaluable documentations of the play- 
ing of such outstanding musicians as fiddlers Michael Coleman, Paddy 
Killoran, and James Morrison, button accordionist John Kimmel, and 
uilleann piper Patsy Tuohy, among many others.^ 

The 78 recordings had an immeasurable effect on the course of Irish 
traditional music as they inadvertently established "correct" and "official" 
styles of playing the music through the selective recording of some musi- 
cians and the neglect of others. Also, the traditional transmission process, 
which had already been affected b\' immigration and increased mobility 
in general, was further altered, it had been essentially an oral tradition, 
passed down aurally from the elder to younger generation through imita- 
tion and repetition. Now younger students of the mu.sic did not necessarily 
need to interact with a senior practitioner, and instead could learn an en- 
tire repertoire and playing style from the recordings. The impact is still 
heard in the maintenance of repertoire and it is not unusual to hear specific 
groupings of reels or hornpipes played in a modern Irish music session 
exactly as they were recorded fifty years ago. 

While these recordings facilitated wider dissemination of musical stvles, 
over the years most Irish musicians in America nevertheless maintained 
their particular regional playing styles. If anything, the recordings of fid- 
dlers Coleman, Morrisem, and Killoran inspired younger plavers to learn 
the distinctive Sligo style as preserved by these masters.’ It has only been 
in the past 15 vears or so, that a less regionallv-based, pan-American stvlo 
has emerged to a limited extent among some of Ih.e younger plas ers. And 
most of these players still master a specific regional sound and repertoire 
first as opposed to a more generic Irish playing style. 

With the advent of the shellac ban and the Depression, the produc- 
tion of Irish records declined rapidly in the latter half of the 1930s until 
1945, when the "Irish" series disappeared altogether from active catalogue 
lists (McCullough 1974:185). These factors, plus a substantial decrease in 
emigration from Ireland throughout the 1930s, led to the end of the "Golden 
Age of Irish Music." Without a fresh infusiem of immigrants to maintain 
the interest, the popularitv of traditional music started its inexorable 

The early 1950s showed a slight increase in immigration of the Irish 
over the prev^ us decade as Irish immigrants sought increased economic 
opportunity a. i iobs in the post-war employment boom in the United 
States.^ This Wc .e of immigrants included some of the finest Irish tradi- 
tional musicians currently in New York today. Nevertheless, Irish music 
had so greatly declined in popularity among the Irish communities in New 
York that these newly-arrived musicians had difficulty finding opportunities 



to play. Their potential audience seemed more intent on assimilating into 
American culture? and the majority of newly-arrived Irish showed little ap- 
preciation for traditional music; in fact, they often were embarrassed on 
hearing this kind oi music in public and being reminded of their folk 

Jack Coen, an outstanding traditional Irish wooden flutist, emigrated 
from Galway to the Bronx in 1949. He remembers having a hard time find- 
ing other musicians to play traditional music with upon arrival: 

The only time we'd plav would be w'hcn there'd be a house party 
out in IN’ew] jersey. I think w'e played one wedding. More or 
less for our own amusement w'C W'ould play, not for anybody 
else, for not too many at that time cared to listen to us, actual- 
ly. A lot of people didn't even want to be associated with us 
. . . Irish people! They thought it w'as degrading, or I don't 
know what you'd call it. They thought it was Rocky Mountain 
music that should be left where we got it and not be brought 
from there at all. That's strange, isn't it? But that was the w’a\’ 
it was in those da\'s. (Kaplan, 1979) 

Similarh', Martin Mulhaire, a ftmrth generation ti’aditional musician 
also from Galway and an excellent exponent of the button accordion, im- 
migrated to New Ytirk in the late 1950s. He attributes this attitude towards 
Irish traditional music on the part c)f the new'ly-arrived Irish and Irish- 
Americans to ingrained sentiments acquired prior to immigration: 

That goes back deep into our heritage of British occupation. 

When the British came to Ireland, they tried io destro\’ 
everything that was Irish and what they couldn't destroy, the\’ 
tried to make \'ou feel ashamed tif. They abolished the language, 
you W'e re n't allowed to flv green flags, \'ou weren't allowed to 
play the music . . . and that feeling has persisted even to this 
day, to a point w'here most Irish musicians are really ashamed 
of their music because they w'ere made to feel that way. It w'asn't 
mainstream . . . along with that came a kind of reserve where 
Uiev kept it to themselves and they didn't pla\' for oHier peev 
pie or they felt ashamed to play for other people. 

Having come from this suppres.-^ion of Irish music, then 
come to another country, I guess they felt that it was time to 
put that behind them or put it away. They kept it in the back 
of their mind and all that. But they didn't come over to 
demonstrate their Irish ness. They came over to blend in, to 
become part of American society, which they did. . . . They 
adapted to American ways, to American music, to American 



Interviews with other New York-based Irish musicians indicate that the 
mid-to late-1950s offered few options for both informal and formal perfor- 
mance of traditional music. Some musicians played only infrequently in 
the odd ceili dance or with a handful of other musicians in private house 
sessions. Others set aside their traditional music and instead learned con- 
temporary, Irish-American popular music on non-traditional instruments, 
thus catering to what was then marketable. 

Martin Mulhaire opted for the latter. Upon arrival to New York, 
Mulhaire was employed at City Center — then a major Irish dance hall 
— to play 15-minutes of traditional Irish country dances in between sets 
of American big band and popular music. Among other reasons, his am- 
bivalence towards playing the music closest to him as a filler for an au- 
dience that didn't really care forced him to set aside his accordion after 
a year in favor of the electric guitar. He met Matty Connolly, a recent ar- 
rival trom Ireland, who, like Mulhaire, had put away his uilleann pipes 
and learned to play the electric bass. Along with a drummer, saxophonist, 
vocalist, and rhythm guitarist, Mulhaire joined Connolly's group — The 
Majestic Showband. A very popular band, they performed three nights 
a week for ten years at the Red Mill on Jerome Avenue in the Bronx, which 
was one of five or six dance halls in the City. 

The Majesties played Irish-Araerican showband music — a hybrid 
musical style which incorporates popular Irish songs with American dance 
standards and country-\s'estern. For both the performers and audience, 
Irish-American showband music served as a bridge between the traditional 
way of life left behind in Ireland and the new, contemporary American 
pace and lifestyle. Irish dance halls throughout the City featured American 
dance forms ~ foxtrots, quicksteps, slow waltzes, etc. — and immigrant 
and second-generation audiences socialized in a community milieu while 
dancing to Irish-American popular songs, American standards, country- 
western, and in the 1960s, rock 'n roll. 

Despite the apparent lack of interest in Irish traditional music in New 
York during the late 1950s, 1958 nevertheless saw the formation of the now 
legendary New York Ceilidhe Band, an ensemble of the finest practitioners 
of the music in New York. Featuring fiddlers Andy McCann, Paddy 
Revnolds, and Larry Redican, Paddy O'Brien on button accordion, Felix 
Dolan on piano, Gerr\' Wallace on piccolo, jack Coen and Mike Dorney 
on flutes, and an occasional drummer, the New York Ceilidhe Band was 
one of the finest and most polished groups of its kind. The band consisted 
primarily of Irish immigrants who came over in the mid- to Iate-1950s, as 
well as second-generation Irish-Americans. 

Dan Collins, of Shanachie Records in New Jersey, was a voung award- 
winning Irish step-dancer and an aspiring fiddler in New York at the time. 
He recalls that the New York Ceilidhe Band played traditional music for 
country set and ceili dances at the Gaelic League ceil is held in the five 
boroughs of New York City as well as at Masonic Hall in Manhattan and 

that ''the music was spectacular."*^ The band competed in the annual Flcadh 
Cheoil (Irish Music Competitions in Ireland) in 1960, but then fizzled as 
a group the following year due to a lack of a regular audience and general 

Unlike the Irish instrumental music tradition, traditional seau-nos 
(Gaelic: "old style") singing did not do nearly as well in the U.S. Scan-nos 
songs are unaccompanied, solo endeavors that feature highly stylized and 
complex ornamentation. These songs require careful concentration on the 
pari of an Irish-speaking audience, for the tale told (most often in the Irish 
language) is frequently long and complicated. Once an important narrativ'e 
form found primarily in the west of Ireland, scan-nos singing had begun 
to fade from practice in the early years of the 20th century. In the United 
States, sean-}ios singing did not survive as did the instrumental music tradi- 
tion, largely due to the inaccessibility of the Irish language, as well as the 
lack of a traditional performance context — the rural house party.^^ Even- 
tually this vocal tradition was largelv left behind in Ireland along with the 
Irish language. 

Bayridge, Brooklyn was home to the legendary scan-nos singer of the 
modern age, the late Joe Heaney. Originally from Carna, an isolated fishing 
village in western Ireland's Connemara district, Heaney came from a long- 
line of traditional singers and slianachics (Gaelic: storytellers). He was an 
award-winning singer in Ireland, vet upon immigration to New York in 
the late 1940s, he lived in relative obscurity and rarelv sang with the ex- 
ception of an occasional song in his neighborhood pub in Brooklyn.*^ Dur- 
ing these years, Heaney passed this old-style Irish tradition on to a young 
tin-whistle player, Eileen Clohessy, the daughter of Heaney's neighborhood 
friends in Brooklyn. Today, Clohessy's whistle playing is brilliant and uni- 
que, as she plays airs exactly as Heaney sang them tc» her. 

With scan -nos singing virtually unknown for so many years, a more 
accessible Irish vocal style was popularized in the late 1950s by the Clancy 
Brothers and Tommy Makem, With beginnings in folk music clubs in Green- 
wich Village in Manhattan, the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem sang 
strictly in English, with rhythmic accompaniment of guitars and banjos. 
By the early 1960s, this quartet became internaticmally known for their lively 
renditions of popular Irish songs and ballads. 

The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem introduced their version of 
Irish singing to an audience newly interested in folk music. They did not 
present the songs and music in a traditional fashiem: instead, they 
eliminated much of the ornamentation and sang the songs faster with a 
driving beat. Moreover, they sang in unison, which not only gave them 
their particular trademark as a group, but also allowed for audience par- 
ticipation, which was much in keeping with the pervading social activist 
atmosphere of the '60s in America. At the same time, Makem and the Clan- 
cy Brothers created a potential audience for the more traditional songs and 
instrumental dance music. 

1 1 ! 


The Clancy Brothers' and Tommy Makem's influence on the younger 
generation was enormous. Many performers of Irish traditional music and 
song today developed a curiosity and an interest in the older genre of in- 
strumental music after years of playing and listening to the Clancy Brothers. 
In effect, the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem became teachers of Irish 
music in a modern age to countless students through their concerts and 
recordings, radio and television appearances. These fans would seek out 
the older emigres from Ireland who were masters of instrumental music 
and thus further the revival of the more traditional forms. 

The Reviv4<l of the Tradition 

By the early 1970s, New York was the center of a major revival of tradi- 
tional Irish music. Irish music ensembles such as The Chieftains, The Boys 
of The Lough, and later. The Bothy Band and Planxty, had gained interna- 
tional attention, toured the United States, and flamed the interest spark- 
ed by the '60s folk music movement. A similar revival of traditional music 
had begun several years earlier in Ireland with the establishment of Com- 
haltas Ceoltoiri Eireann (The Traditional Musicians Association). With their 
primary objective being the promotion of traditional Irish music and song, 
chapters of Comhaltas were soon established throughout the New York 
City area, as well as in parts of Long Island, Westchester, and New Jersey. 
Today Comhaltas Clubs offer the occasional sponsorship of concerts of Irish 
music and dance and regular monthly music scisuns for local Irish 

Since the 1970s, the revival of Irish traditional music in New York City 
has grown to include the sons and daughters of immigrants who came over 
in the 1940s and 1950s as well as Irish-Americans and non-Irish players 
whose interest began with the Clancy Brothers or later with the Chieftains 
and other traditional ensembles. Many events — competitions, concerts, 
festivals, seisims, ceilis, etc. — take place both within the heavily Irish 
neighborhoods of New York City as well as outside the community for a 
growing number of enthusiastic listeners. In any given week, an Irish music 
afficionado can choose between many Irish traditional music, song, or dance 
events that take place throughout the greater New York metropolitan area. 
Many of the finest master practitioners of Irish traditional music — both 
those who reside in New York City as well as musicians from Ireland on 
tour — are presented to enthusiastic crowds of Irish, Irish-Americans, and 
the general public. 

These concerts are often followed with a music seisufi either at the con- 
cert venue or, more frequently at a nearby Irish pub. Scisufis also take place 
at pubs on a regular weekly basis throughout the boroughs of New York 
City and are frequently led by a single musician. A typical scisun offers 
non-professional players the opportunity to play along with semi- 
professional and professional Irish musicians. The ideal size of such an 


event is no more than 15 players and preferably less and can include an 
uilleann piper, several button accordionists, fiddlers, flutists, banjo and 
mandolin players, and tin whistlers. Rhythm is provided most frequently 
by a guitarist or a bouzouki player, and less often by a pianist. The hodhran, 
a handheld drum, often rumbles out an accompanying rhythm, while an 
appreciative crowd surrounding the seisuu looks on. 

By the early 70s, New York was the center of a major 
revival of traditional Irish music. 

Maureen and Tom Dohert}/, Snu^ Harbor, 1987. Photo: Kathleen Collins. 

The strongest musicians in a scisim usually sit in a circle or near-drclc, 
with the less proficient players sitting or standing behind. Tunes are selected 
by one of the stronger players who usually begins the selection wjthout 
prior discussion, although in some instances, a player will ask another if 
he or she knows a specific tune and might lilt (sing with nonsense syllables) 
a few bars of the tune to remind the others how it goes. In New York (and 
in America in general), each tunc is played through two or three times 
before the leader segues into another. (In Ireland, each tune is con'imonly 
played five or six tin'ics through.) Medleys contain two to four tunes of 




the same rhythm (reels, jigs, slipjigs, or hornpipes) and generally are in 
the same harmonic key. 

Seisuns are as social as they are musical and quite a bit of humorous 
banter takes place between tune medleys. Seisuns provide an ideal oppor- 
tunity for musicians to exchange tunes as well as news and gossip and 
they thus serve as an important social outlet for Irish musicians. 

Throughout New York, Irish traditional music concert'' are produced 
by Irish organizations and by traditional music organizations in all types 
of venues, ranging from the smallest pub in the Kingsbridge section of the 
Bronx to Carnegie Hall in Manhattan. The Irish Arts Center's Irish Tradi- 
tional Music Festival, held at Snug Harbor, Staten Island every June is one 
of two Irish traditional music festivals in the United States. It has grown 
in popularity from a handful of audience members and performers seven 
years ago to nearly 3,500 listeners and over 40 folk artists, most of whom 
are local to the New York/New Jersey area. This all-day, outdoor festival 
offers a formal performance opportunity to the older, senior masters as 
well as to the upcoming, younger generation of Irish traditional musicians. 

The revival of interest in Irish traditional folk arts in New York can be 
largely attributed to the perseverance of the generation of Iris immigrants 
who came over in the 1940s and '50s. Despite the ambivalence and com- 
plicated sentiments they might have felt towards their native culture upon 
immigration, a decade and a half later they nevertheless encouraged their 
children to pursue music and dance lessons. As a result, an enormous in- 
crease in the number of young Irish-Americans stud'^ng the music and 
dance in New York became evident starting in the early 1970s. 

Many of these Irish-American children learned the musical tradition 
from their parents or from a senior practitioner in the neighborhood. Most, 
however, attended one of several schools fo»' traditional Irish music. In New 
York City, there are two major schools: the late Martin Mulvihill's school 
in the Bronx, and Maureen Glynn's schools in Brooklyn and Queens. 
Mulvihill, a delightful old-style fiddler from Co. Limerick, received a Na- 
tional Heritage Award from the National Endowment for the Arts in 1984 
for passing on the music and tradition to literally thousands of children 
on a variety of instruments. Ms. Glynn inherited her school from her father, 
button accordionist John Glynn, and in the past years, taught and led 
award-winning ceili bands of children all under the age of 18. 

Most of the young students in these schools studied the music with 
an eye towards competing in the annual New York feis (festival), the win- 
ner of which goes on to the Fleadh Cheoil in Ireland to compete for the All- 
Ireiand championship. These young practitioners established their own 
music community, initially through the schools and competitions, and as 
they got older, through group music seisuns, concerts, and festivals. The 
essential social element was thus provided and served to keep many of 
the youngsters' attentions focused on the music and the continuation of 
the tradition. 



Interestingly, the past two decades have shown a great increase in the 
number of women playing traditional Irish music in the United States and 
particularly in New York, as documented by Mick Moloney with the album 
and concert tour ''Cherish The Ladies."'- Most of the women in Irish tradi- 
tional music today started with Irish step-dance lessons as children, along 
with literally thousands of other Irish-American kids in New York. These 
students trained almost exclusively for the annual local dance competitions 
but as they approached their mid- to late-teens, most stopped altogether, 
while others pursued Irish music instead. 

In families where the father is a traditional musician, a surprisingly 
large number of the daughters learned the music directly from their fathers 
and later joined other young Irish-American girls at traditional music 
schools. Moloney sees the entrance of women into the traditional music 
community as a result of the "success of the women's movement ... in 
opening male-dominated areas of life to women." Further, he points out 
that the "revival of Irish traditional music . . . made (it) a socially accep- 
table vehicle for the expression of ethnic identity for a significant popula- 
tion of Irish immigrants."^^ 

Among the youngs c generation of New York practitioners are a hand- 
ful who incorporate modern non-Irish sounds into what is otherwise a 
traditional Irish playing style. Some do so with calculated intent, whereas 
others have unconsciously incorporated these modern sounds acquired 
from popular American music genres. The practice is not so great that a 
definitive syncretic style has emerged among younger players. Nevertheless, 
both subtle and obvious modern influences have worked their way into 
the music over the past decade — from touches of blues (exaggerated slides 
and flattened major thirds) to modern arrangements of old tunes to the 
extreme of using synthesizers and midis to augment the sound capabilities 
of an instrument or a band. 


Flutist: Andy Horan; Fiddler: Dierdre Carney, Bronx, NY, 1986, Photo by Panic 

Bronx-born fiddler Eileen Ivers (b. 1965) and her partner, English-born 
button accordionist John Whelan (b. 1959) are among the most popular 
young Irish traditional musicians in New York today partly because they 
are superb instrumentalists but also because the\' have self-consciously in- 
tegrated elements of bluegrass and blues into the music and arranged 
medleys of tunes with a modern, almost '"NY'W Age'' feel. John Whelan's 
concern is to modernize their music in order to encourage the next genera- 
tion of players: 

I'd like to think . . . that I'm bringing out the fact that the ac- 
cordion can do even more . . . and bringing Irish music more 
into the forefront, incorporating it more with modern music. 
Basically, let the young people know thuc to play Irish music, 
you're not back in the 40s, you can be updated, this is the 80s 
. . . This is where I feel that Irish music is going and it has to 
go in this direction to keep the young people interested,’* 

As in past decades, the recent wave of emigration from Ireland of 
thousands of young Irish (the average age range is between 20 and 25) has 
stimulated the traditional music scene in the New York City area. The ex- 
act figure for the number of newly-arrived Irish who immigrated to New 
York in the past six years varies greatly depending on the information 



source, with estimates ranging from 15,000 to 50,000J^ Flocking to Irish 
enclaves in the Bronx (Kingsbridge and Woodlawn), Brooklyn (Bayridge), 
Queens (Sunnyside, VVoodside, Bayside, and Flushing), and parts of Staten 
Island, this recent batch of so-called "youn^ illegals" has rejuvenated what 
had become decaying neighborhoods of older Irish. Most do not have work- 
ing papers or ''green cards," but virtually all find work in various sectors 
of New York's service industry — mainly construction for the men and nurs- 
ing or domestic work for the women. 

This recent wave of immigrants has yielded many outstanding Irish 
traditional musicians, mainly from the west and south of Ireland, but also 
from the cities of Belfast, Dublin, and Cork. The newly-arrived Irish also 
make up a substantial new audience for Irish traditional music, a curiosi- 
ty in light of the fact that the majority of this generation has been raised 
on a diet of rock 'n roil and country-western music. Nevertheless, a tight 
ensemble of traditional musicians complete with a singer in the folk Irish 
style, plus a typically overpowered sound system and small dance floor 
makes for a crowded and rollicking evening in any one of a number of Irish 
pubs in the outer boroughs of New York City. 

Irish traditional music has fared well in the general revival of interest 
in traditional ethnic music both nationwide and especially in New York. 
Its current popularity comes only after a time when there was virtually 
no outlet for this expression of Irish culture; yet, the tradition was never- 
theless preserved by the Irish immigrants of the various eras and passed 
on to their children. And in New York, the tradition is extremely strong 
with the Irish music community remaining a closely-knit group of diverse 
ages and backgrounds. 

It comes as no surprise, then, that what started out centuries ago as 
a community based folk art remains to a notable extent exactly that, in spite 
of the necessary adaptations of time and location, not to mention those 
influences of technology and modern innovation. It is testimony to its en- 
during vitality that Irish traditional culture - and particularly the music 
— continues to thrive in New York, a city steeped in popular, commercial, 
and elitist culture. The continued existence in New York of this musical 
tradition in the face of such enormous social pressure and change bodes 
well for its survival and development in the future. 


Trou''< SciC York Citu F/ir Year iuiin\^ luh Ui. pg. 230. 

hir cin excoptionnl record (^t this period of immisranl Irish culture in the U.S., see two books 
bv Capt. Francis O'N'eill: /n.-^/i folk Music - A Fiiscimi^/iij^sj //oMiy and /ris/i AJmsfrWs (Jtui Aliisitiaus. 
Published m WU), these books discuss in frequently peculiar detail and with great pride, the manv 
figures in Irish music in the C hicago area during this time. (Both reprinted by Norwood F.ditions, 

Darbv. PA., 1973). . .. . . , „ . 

Mick Moloney, in the album notes to "Irish Music from the l ast C oau of America anecd»>talK 
notes that the market tor Irish recordings in New Aork was so great amund the time of \Sorld 


1 1 ? 


War I that "Ellen O'Byrnc dc Witl, the main driving force behind the business, dispatched her 
son, Justus, to Gaelic Park in iho Bronx to find Irish musicians. He found Eddie Herborn and 
James Wheeler playing Irish music on banjo and accordion on soapboxes there and brought them 
down to Columbia, who agreed to record them if the record store would agree to purchase at 
least 500 copies. The deal was made and James Wheeler and Eddie Herborn's recording of 'The 
Rocky Road to Dublin' and The Stack of Barley' was issued in 1915. Justus who subsequently 
opened his own record store in Boston . . . tells me that the 500 copies sold out in no time at 
all.' Mick Moloney, "Irish Music From the East Coast of America," Rounder Records, 6005. 

4. The Sligo style of fiddling, best exemplified by the legendary fiddlers Michael Coleman, James 
Morrison, Paddy Killoran, and Paddy Sweeney, is marked by an extensive use of ornaments (rolls, 
bowed staccato triplets); over-t he- measure slurring of bow strokes (imparting a lift or lilt to the 
music); and a limited yet strategic use of double stops (two notes sounded together) for emphasis 
or variation. By far the most popular style of fiddling in New York over the years, many of the 
finest fiddlers today, both young and old, arc Sligo-style players. Among the youngest genera- 
tion ot Amencan-bom fiddlers, the Sligo style generally predominates, although sometimes in 
variant form. ° 

For reissues of the above-mentioned Sligo masters, sec Shanachic Records, '‘.‘'he Wheels of 
(he World," SH 33001; "Paddy Killoran." SH 33003; 'The Legacy of Michael Coleman." SH 33002- 
and "James Morrison," SH 3304. 

^ States Immigration and Naturalization Service's Annual Report indicates that 210024 

Irish immigrated between 1921 and 1930, whereas only 10,973 came during the next decade, be- 
tween 1931 and 1940. United States I.N.S. Annual Report, 1986, Washington, D.C. 

6. According to the United States Immigration and Naturalization Scrv'ice, the number of Irish im- 
migrants arriving in the United States between 1941 and 1950 totaled 19,789 Between 1951 and 
I960, the number increased to 48,362. United States I.N.S. Annual Report, 1986. Washington. D.C. 

7. Field interview with Martin Mulhaire, Flushing, N.Y., November, 1986. 

8. Research on the effect that popular American culture has on traditional immigrant folkarts is cur- 
rently underway by the author. This research is culminating in the production of a 13-part public 
radio series of half-hour documentaries entitled "Old Traditions - New Sounds," one show of 
which profiles Martin Mulhaire and the Irish immigrant experience. 

9. Field interview with Daniel Michael Collins, March, 1988. 

10. Mick Moloney, album notes to "Cherish The Ladies," Shanachie Record 79053 

11. Wording to interviews with Joe Heaney prior to his death and to interviews with several sources 

talents as a singer were "discovered" initially by television personality Men.' 
Griffin in the quintessential, small-world-New York fashion. Heaney was the doorman for the 
building in which Griffin lived on Fifth Avenue. The story goes that Griffin, on a tour of Ireland, 
stopped in a pub and saw a picture of Heaney on the wall. Recognizing his doorman, Griffin 
asked why Heaney's photo was displayed and was told by the pub owmer that joe Heaney was 
the greatest t^ditional singer ever and had won many competitions in Ireland. Upon returning 
to the States. Griffin asked Heaney if he would appear on his television program. Hoanov agreed 

10 Gaelic singer to appear over prime time on American national television 

1^. Mick Moloney, album notes to "Cherish The Ladies," Shanachie Records, 79053 

11 "Fathers and Daughters," December. 1985. Shanachie Records, 790.54 

14. Field intei^'iew with John Whelan, July 18. 1987, Staten Island, N.Y. 

15. Although there arc no precise figures available, Frank Vardy, Senior Demographer for the Citv 

of Now York, estimates that there are 15.000 tn 90 000 ..linn in . i.. J... -t'i 

Of Now York, estimates that there are 15,000 to 20,000 «lien Irish in New York City lodav. The 
rish Immigration Reform Movement, a lobbying group seeking to bring abt.ut change in current 
U.b. immigration laws, places the number closer to 50,000. 

Brcalhnac^ Brendan. Folk Music and Dances of Ireland. Dublin, Ireland: The Mercier Pr, ,s Limited. 

Rounder Records (6005). -a.^aenuseus: 

Soil h) the Recording. Newton, New Jersey: Shanachie Records. 

1- ■, And Daughters: Notes to the Recording. Newton. New jerses-. Shanachie 

Records, 79054. 

O'Neill. Francis. Irish Kilk Music - A Fascinating Hobbv Chicago: The Regan Printing House 1910 
reprmt-ed.. Darby. PA; Norwood Editions, 1973. 


Krassen, Miles. O Neill's Music of Ireland. New York: Oak Publications, 1976. 

McCullough l^\yence E. "An Historical Sketch of Traditional Irish Music in the U.S" FolUon' Forum 
VII: 3 (July. 1974): 177-191. 

Moloney Mick. Irish Music From The East Coast of America: Notes to the Recording. Ma.ssachusetts- 

McCullough, l^wrence E. "An Historical Sketch of Traditional Irish Music 
VII: 3 (July. 1974): 177-191. 





The Wheels of The World. Shanachie Records, 33001, Newton, New Jersey. 

I 'ddy Killoran. Shanachie Records, 33003. 

The Classic Recordings ot Michael Coleman. Shanachie Records, 3300h. 

The Legacy of Michael Coleman. Shanachie Records, 33002. 

The Pure Genius of James Morrison. Shanachie Records, 33004 

Reissues of the legend 3r\' Sligo fiddling masters of the early 20th cenlur^-, Shanachie Records, 
Newton, New Jersey. 

Irish Music from the East Coast of America. Rounder Records, 6005, Somerv'ille, MA. Compilation 
of twenty-four outstanding musicians, both young and old. Excellent album notes by Mick 

4th Annual Irish Traditional Music Festival. Global Village, C501, New York, New York, l.ive perfor- 
mance recordings of 20 of the finest Irish traditional musicians primarily from the New 
York .New Jersey area, as well as from other parts of the U.S. From the Irish .Arts Center's 
1985 edition of the festi\'al. 

Cherish The Ladies, Shanachie Records, 79053, Ho-Ho-Kus, N.J. 

Fathers & Daughters. Shanachie Records, 79054 

Two excellent recordings featuring primarily young women musicians, and, in 'Fathers & 
Daughters," their fathers. Both albums feature informative notes by Mick Moloney. 

The New York Allstars. Meadowlark Records, 102, a division of Shanachie Records. .A lively recor- 
ding of a 20-member ceili group made up of young students from the Maureen Glynn School 
of Traditional Irish Music of Queens, New York. 

Irish Music: The Lh ing Tradition. Green Linnet Records, 1009, Ne\%' Canaan, CT Young ceili bands 
from the Martin Mulvhill School of Traditional Irish Music. Recorded in the mid-1970s. 

Fraditumal Music of Ireland: Andy McGann & Paddy Reynolds. Shanachie Records, 29004, Newton, 
New Jersey. A first-rate collection of tunes played by the incomparable Sligo fiddling duo of 
New York. 

Fresh Takes: John Whelan & E-iilcen hers. Green Linnet Records, 1075, New Canaan. Ct. Modern 
arrangements of traditional and original Irish instrumental music on fiddle and button ac- 




Vol. XIV, Nos. 3-4, 1988 

From Eastern Europe to East Broadway: 
Yiddish Music in Old World and New 


During the Middle Ages, small communities of Jews from southern 
Europe settled along the Rhine River. Their language, Yiddish, evolved from 
High German dialects with Hebrew-Ararnaic and Romance fragments dur- 
ing the 14th century, and their culture, Ashkeuaz, developed and spread 
from the Rhine Valley to other European Jewish communities. By the end 
of the 18th century, Yiddish language and culture formed the common bond 
among Jewish communities throughout Europe. Yiddish music in its myriad 
forms, from folk songs to fiddle tunes, religious music to lullabies, reflects 
the richness of this culture. 

The most influential musical form within the Ashkenazic Jewish com- 
munity was the singing of religious prayers by the khazn (cantor). No aspect 
of Jewish sacred or secular music was unaffected by the style and textual 
content of the khazu’s performance. Because religious loaders had banned 
instrumental music from Jewish ceremonies after the destruction of the 
Second Temple in Jerusalem (70 C.E.), only (i cappclla renditioiis of prayers 
were t:>fficially sanctioned during worship. The khazn assisted the rabbi who 
led Jewish services, and although the singers were supposed to emphasize 
the Hebrew prayer texts rather than indulge in musical pyrotechnics, there 
are many examples of rabbinical reprimands against cantors, often claim- 
ing that the beauty of the cantors' voices was distracting the congregants 
from the piety of their prayers. 

The cantor, in addition to his role as a leader of community prayer, 
was also responsible for the training of future khazonim. The apprentices 
(iiwshour’rim) learned the rudiments of the special prayer modes used to 
accompany the cantor, and some later became cantors themselves. Religious 
music also thrived in the kheijdcr and i/cshivc (primary and secondary 
schools) where Talmudic law and Jewish traditions were taught to students 
with the help of specific accompanying mnemonic melodies. 

Also influential were the myriad forms of unaccompanied folksongs 
which reflected the broad diversity of East European Jewish life. These in- 
cluded songs of love and marriage, lullabies and children's songs, work 
songs, and ballads detailing natural and national disasters. Sung mainly 

1 cij 




in an unembellished yet compelling style, by the beginning of the twen- 
tieth century unaccompanied folksongs would heavily influence the vocal 
repertoire of the popular Yiddish theatre. Most of these songs have come 
down via oral tradition, learned from family and friends, the identity of 
their composers obscured with the passage of time. 

The roots of klezmer dance music are earlier than the Mid- 
dle Ages. 

East European repertoire was made up of both Jewish and 

non-Jewish folksongs which the former sang for themselves and for their 
gentile neighbors. Though Jewish traditional singers used a high percen- 
tage of non-Jewish songs in their repertoire, the same cannot be said for 
East European gentile singers who tended to exclude Jewish tunes from 
their repertoires. 

The Hasidim, a charismatic sect of Jews, also influenced general Yid- 
dish music. Their interpretation of piety encouraged song and dance as 
a valid approach to prayer, and they accorded a great value to composi- 
tions called nii^unim (wordless songs), whose melodies bypassed the 
"burden" of words in their quest for oneness with God. These tunes, meant 
to be sung on holidays and celebrations, build in intensity as they pro- 
gress and are accompanied by clapping, foot stamping, and ecstatic danc- 
ing. Jewish religious laws mandated the separation of men and women 
at public gatherings; hence, there was no mixed dancing, which, in effect, 
created separate men's and women's dance traditions. 

One of the most vital forms of Yiddish music was that of the klczma: 
"Klezmer" is a Yiddish ized contraction of tw'O Hebrew words, klei-zcmer, 
which means "vessel of melody." Klezmer dance music has been a part 
of Jewish celebrations since before the Middle Ages, and, although 
sometimes frowned upon by the rabbinate as promoting "frivolousness," 
instrumental music was allowed at simkhes (happy occasions). Prints, 
engravings and first-hand accounts depict klezmer musicians playing in- 
struments common to the regions in which they lived: fiddles, cellos, string 
basses, flutes, drums and tsimbls (hammered dulcimers). By the begin- 
ning of the 19th century, the clarinet w'as added to the standard klezmer 
ensemble; and by the end of the century it became the central klezmer 
instrument. Later the clarinet was joined by a number of martial in- 
struments, such as the trumpet, trombone and tuba. 

Modern scholars know more about the instruments used by European 
klezmer musicians than about their repertoire. Before the middle of the 
19th century, written klezmer music is largely non-existent. Performing for 
both Jewish and non-Jewish communities, the klezmer, of necessity, 
developed a repertoire which reflected the musical tastes of the many 

diverse ethnic groups of Eastern Europe. For non-Jews, they played local 
East European peasant dances such as the polka, ka}vbhhkc, and kattmriskc, 
in addition to accompanying popular regional 5;ongs. For upper class 
patrons, the klezmers' repertoire included Western popular and art music, 
including overtures from operas and operettas, current salon dances such 
as the waltz and gavotte, and popular songs from Paris and Vienna. These 
compositions were frequently learned from printed music ordered from 
large cities such as Warsaw or Odessa, and taught by the musicaliy literate 
members of an ensemble to those who could not read music. For Jewish 
patrons, klezmer bands typically played Yiddish wedding marches, the 
duple-meter sher (scissors dance), the mitzve lants (blessing dance), the 
kosher lants (pre-nuptial dance), the tnezinke tauis (dance of the }/uungest 
child), and the 3/8-meter horn or opfirn (escorting the bridal couple dance), 
as W'eli as other social dances. 

In addition to playing for dances, the musicians would accomprmy the 
improvisatory rhymes and songs of the hacikhn, a combination of poet, 
satirist, Talmudist and social critic whose pitb^ and sly insights into the 
nature of life and responsibility made him an integral part of anv Jewish 
w'edding. Klezmer musicians also performed in town squares on n)arket 
days, with travelling circus bands, or provided entertainment at local inns. 

During the 1870s, a new development w'as taking place in the burgecm- 
ing Yiddish world. From the wine celh. jasr.y, Rumania, came the Yid- 
dish theatre of Abraham Goldfaden (1840-1908). Until Goldfaden's time, 
the rabbinate shunned any kind of theatre as "frivolous" and tolerated only 
amateur plays which were presented on certain holidays. (For example, 
on Purim, Puriwshpilcrs, schoolboy actors, presented the story of the foil- 
ing of .a plot against the Jews of ancient Persia through songs, daises and 
skits.) Goldfaden borrowed from sources as diverse as grand opera and 
the Bible, and crafted a Yiddish language musical theatre whose far-flung 
future influence was little imagined in its humble birthplace. 

Within a few years, a number of travelling theatre companies were 
organb.ed to present Yiddishbed variants ot the w'orks of Shakespeare, "prob- 
lem" plays based on events from the pages of daily newspapers, and historic 
episodes from the annals of Jewish life. Heeding the call to perpetuate this 
new art form, singers, comics, con)posers, artists, and musicians joined 
these travelling theatre troupes. Like their fellow klezmer performers, Yid- 
dish acting companies also suffered at the hands of belligerent local and 
national governments, who instituted restrictive measures against them. 

Motivated by social and political upheavals in Fastern Europe, some 
three million Jews emigrated between 1880 and 1924. The ultimate destina- 
tion of most of these Yiddish-speaking in-imigrants was the United States, 
and among them were numerous musicians, composers, singers, actors 
and dancers. They and their children would soon provide the creators, per- 
formers and audiences for the cultural experience. 




Alter Goizmati Houseman Kapelye Band (Alter Goizman Houseman on extreme 
left, with fiddle). Chudnov Volhynia Province, Poland, 1905. (Photo courtesy of 
Lmis Griipp.) 

Expansion and Decline, 1840s-1940s 

East European Jews arrived in America during a period when the enter- 
tainment industry was expanding at a rapid rate. Beginning m the 1840s, 
the success of the minstrel show had solidly established a popular theatrical 
form that was uniquely American. The minstrel show, with its stereotypical 
and derogatory depictions of Negro life laid the foundation for post-Civil 
War variety, vaudeville, and burlesque shows. Wtih the addtional perfor- 
mance venues afforded by orchestras in myriad hotels and cafes, roof 
garden restaurants, circuses. Wild West shows, parties, picnics, political 
rallies, and later on records and silent movie houses, one gets the picture 
of a nation with an emerging leisure class going "entertainment crazy" 
These newer genres continued to feature the black-face minstrels 
popularized in the 1840s, but also added a new cache of ethnic and na- 
tional stereotypes: especially the "depictable types" who were at that mo- 
ment streaming off the boats at Castle Garden and, by 1892, would arrive 
through Ellis Island. It is ironic that Jewish musicians seeking employment 
in vaudeville theatre orches’.ras would end up accompanying singers who 
would parody them with such songs as "Sheenies in the Sand," and "Yid- 
dle On Your Fiddle Play Some Ragtime." More ii mic was the fact that Jewish 
composers themselves, like other minorities who were eager to succeed 
in the highly competitive world of Tin Pan Alley, sometimes wrote racist 
novelty songs about their own people. 


Many Jewish performers came to New York, which was both the enter- 
tainment and immigration capital of the United States. It was here that 
'American ' opportunities were matched by a growing market for Yiddish 
culture supported by the city's rapidly expanding Jewish population. Within 
a few short years of the arrival of East European Jews, a new superstruc- 
ture of "in-group" entertainment outlets was in place. Manhattan's Lower 
East Side soon became the center of Yiddish life in New York. 

The Yiddish theatre became the meeting place where the 
powerful beliefs, devotions and loyalties of the Jewish com- 
munity were publicly expressed. 

Nowhere was the Jewish immigrant's passion for entertainment more 
obvious than in the rise of the Yiddish theatre. Theatres became meeting 
places where the powerful beliefs, devotions and loyalties of the Jewish 
community were publicly expressed. It was not uncommon for jews who 
religiously attended synagogue on Saturday mornings to also attend the 
Yiddish theatre on Saturday afternoons. From the vibrant but un- 
sophisticated offerings of Joseph Lateiner (1853-1935) and "Prof." Moyshe 
Hurwitz (1844-1910) during the 1890s, to the polished and influential presen- 
tations of Jacob P. Adler (1855-1926), Boris Thomashefsky (1868-1939), and 
Maurice Schwartz (1888-1960) during the 1920s, the Yiddish theatre offered 
both Jewish and non-Jewish theatre-goers a colorful and sometimes in- 
novative theatrical experience. Complementing the rise of young Yiddish- 
speaking actors was a new generation of composers. Many, like Joseph 
Rumshinsky (1881-1956), Herman Wohl (1877-1936), and Sholem Secunda 
(1894-1974), received their musical training as meshoi/rrim in Eastern Europe 
and, once in New York, augmented their training with studies in both 
classical and popular composition. 

Within a short time, the marketing of sheet music was also in full swing. 
Downtown Yiddish publishers expanded beyond their usual fare of sacred 
and secular books and began to print Yiddish sheet music. Early 
journeymen presses of publishers like Katzenellenbogen, S. Schenker, A. 
Teres, and Joseph Katz, the larger Hebrew Publishing Company, and later, 
Metro Music, produced thousands of Yiddish songs which found their way 
onto the pianos of Lower East Side music devotees. 

Many of the musical-comedy stars who were popularizing the music 
of Rumshinsky, Wohl and Secunda were not just performing it on the stages 
of the numerous Yiddish theatres. Talents like Aaron Lebedeff (1873-1960), 
Molly Picon (b. 1898), Ludwig Satz (1891-1944), Morris Goldstein (1889-1938), 
Gus Goldstein (1884-1944), and Jenny Goldstein (1896-1960), were hard at 
work in the fledgling recording industry turning out three or four-minute 
versions of their popular songs. Not only were the theatre stars sought 



out, but cantors like Yoselle Rosenblatt (1880-1933) — called by some 'The 
Jewish Caruso", Berele Chagy (1892-1952), and Mordechay Hirshman 
(1888-1940), were enthusiastically recorded. The cantors, many of whom 
were brought to America by synagogues eager to add to their prestige by 
having a European cantor, were well-suited to the limited recording abilities 
of the era's primitive equipment because of their powerful voices. Klezmer 
bands were also sought out and recorded, allowing bandleaders like Abe 
Schwartz {fl. 1920s-40s), Naftule Brandwein (1884-1963), Dave Tarras (b. 
1897), and Harry Kandel (1890-1940), to preserve a repertoire that was 
gradually changing in jewish-American life. 

Begun at almost the same moment as the arrival of the East European 
immigrants, experimental recording technology soon blossomed into an 
industry. Companies like Victor, Columbia, Edison, and Zon-O-Phone vied 
for the opportunity of selling the music of immigrants back to them. In 
doing so, they ironically took on the work of documentors by preserving 
the traditional music of a culture in transition, years before 
cthnomusicologists arrived. Maintaining separate catalogues of classical, 
popular, and ethnic music, the record companies thought little of issuing 
records that accurately portrayed the minority communities in one 
catalogue, and badly stereotyped them in another. Some 50,(X)0 Jewish discs 
were made between 1894-1942, the vast majority of them before 1925. An 
interesting footnote to the recording of ethnic music by outsiders was the 
founding of perhaps the first ethnically-owned and operated record com- 
pany, the United Hebrew Disc & Cylinder Record Company (UHD&C), 
founded in 1905 by H. VV. Perlman and S. Rosansky. Perlman had already 
established a piano factory on the U)wer East Side, making him one of 
the first Jewish piano builders in New York, when he entered into the record 
business with Rosansky a few blocks from his instrument plant. Perhaps 
because of the stiff competition from the larger uptown record manufac- 
turers. or because of UHD&C's inferior quality, the company did not last 
past 1906. 

Early recordings were relatively expensive, costing almost as much as 
many immigrants' daily wages. Yet, Yiddish speakers bought these records 
in amounts that encouraged recording companies to continue to engage 

By the mid-1920s, one medium that competed with the recording 
business was radio. This new technology afforded the listener a truer fideli- 
ty than 78 rpm records, and once the playing apparatus was purchased, 
the music was free. The radio not only offered music, but also news, ad- 
vice, drama and sports. V\5th just a twist of the dial, the radio emerged 
as a pre-eminent entree to understanding the world surrounding the 
Yiddish-speaking population, and helped as much as night school to bring 
English into the world of the Ashkenazic immigrant. Of the dozen or so 
New York radio stations offering Yiddish language broadcasts perhaps the 
most famous was WEVD. Established in 1928, owned and operated by the 


socialist newspaper The Fonvard (and named after the twice-ansuccessful 
Socialist presidential candidate Eugene V. Debs), WEVD emerged as an 
outlet for the needs of both Jewish and gentile immigrant populations. 
Because of its diversity programming — from soap operas to musical game 
shows — musician«^ singers, composers and arrangers were kept busy 
meeting the needs of a growing constituency. 

The Nazi Holocaust left Nezv York City as the loorld's 
major Yiddish cultural center. 

With the passage of restrictive emigration laws in 1924, the flow of new 
East European Yiddish writers, musicians and actors, not to mention their 
audiences, was halted. With the assimilation of children of immigrants, 
this caused the appreciative audience for Yiddish performances to decline. 
Though attempts were made by enterprising impresarios to stem the tide 
of decreasing interest, younger Jews were more inclined to listen to jazz 
clarinetist Benny Goodman than to klezmer clarinetist Dave Tarras who 
was to suffer the irony of being dubbed the "Jewish Benny Goodman." 
Yiddish actors who had begun on the Yiddish stage like Muni Weisenfreund 
(Paul Muni), were part of a throng making an exodus from Hester Street 
to Hollywood. 

What assimilation had begun, the ravages of the Nazi Holocaust seem- 
ed to complete. In a few short years, European Ashkenazic culture was 
destroyed, leaving New York City as the major Yiddish cultural center in 
the world.. However, except for the Hasidic communities of Brooklyn, and 
the few remaining secular Yiddish organizations, Yiddish and its culture 
were not prominent in minds of the post-Holocaust American Jewish com- 
munity. The creation of the State of Israel in 1948 came with an attendant 
linguistic, political, and cultural agenda, none of which looked back to 
Eastern Europe. Hebrew replaced Yiddish, and Israel replaced Eastern 
Europe as a Jewish center. 

The Klezmer Renewal 

However, almost as gradually as the post-War interest in Yiddish culture 
faded during the 1940s and 1950s, a renewed interest in it developed dur- 
ing the 1970s and 1980s. Renewed interest was stimulated, in part, by the 
success of Alex Haley's "Roots," and by a young post-Holocaust genera- 
tion of Jewish-Americans eager to contexualize their family and group 
histories. Perhaps nothing reflects this renewed interest better than the 
revitalization of klezmer music. Begun in the mid-1970s, the klezmer renewal 
inspired younger musicians to learn its repertoire. However, this renewed 
interest has not been confined to the melodies. The Yiddish language, 
history and folklore of the rich East European Ashkenazic experience are 


Kapelye (left to right): Kenneth Maltz, Eric Berman, Michael Alpert, Lauren Brodi/, 
and Henri/ Sapoznik, Photo: James Kriegsmann. 

being studied in an attempt to reacquaint the community with its nearly 
discarded culture. Musicians trained in Anglo-American country music, 
jazz, classical, and other East European folk music, were drawn to Yid- 
dish vocal and instrumental music which had been thought passe even 
by those older musicians and audiences who loved them most. The revival 
that in 1979 numbered three klezmer bands in the United States, has grown 
by 1988 to include more than 50 North American klezirer ensembles, over 
ten of them based in the New York City area alone. What is perhaps most 
gratifying is the re-emergence of older, experienced klezmer musicians who 
have been sought out by younger players eager for stylistic models. 

Paramount among these is veteran klezmer clarinetist Dave Tarras. Born 
into a professional klezmer family in the Ukraine, Tarras immigra^od to the 
United States in 1922. He soon established a reputation as a virtuoso per- 


12 / 

Klezmer clarinetist Dave Tarras (k 7897) playing at a wedding in Nciv York City, 
mid-1940$. Plwto^^raplicr unhioicn; photo courtesy of DaiK^ Tarras. 



former and made hundreds c wordings, both as a soloist and an ensemble 
member, often accompanying . : most famous stars of the Yiddish theatre. 
With the decline of interest in kJezmer music, Tairas' unique style was heard 
by fewer and fewer people, and he rarely if ever performed outside the 
Jewish community But in 1979, a successful return concert in New York 
City which introduced Tarras to a new, younger ethnically-mixed audience, 
and a subsequent album, helped re-establish his recognition as a master 
of the klezmer tradition. In 1984, this was offically acknowledged when 
Tarras was the recipient of a National Heritage Fellowship Award, given 
by the National Endowment for the Arts to those individuals who have 
demonstrated a lifetime of commitment to their cultural heritage. 

For the first time in years, record companies are producing albums of 
traditional Yiddish music as more and more radio stations begin to play 
them. Klezmer bands are now finding themselves in concert series, which 
were until recently primarily the domain of jazz, classical and folk revival 
groups. Even Hollywood, in its attempt to infuse its films with more 
"authentic atmosphere," sought out the ser\'ices of New York klezmer bands 
in the production of such films as "The Chosen," "Over the Brooklyn 
Bridge," and "Brighton Beach Memoirs." 

In 1985, the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research in New York sponsored 
its first Yiddish Folk Arts Institute. Dubbed "KlezKamp," this five-day event, 
held in the Catskill's "Borscht Belt," brought together 120 teachers and 
students of Yiddish language, literature, folklore, song, klezmer music, 
dance and visual arts. Now in its fourth year, the 1988 Institute was at- 
tended by over 270 people from across North America and Europe. 

It is likely that Yiddish music and theatre in New York will never again 
achieve the popularity it enjoyed at the turn of this century. However, this 
current revitalization demonstrates that reports of its demise are, to 
paraphrase Mark Twain's famous quip, highly exaggerated. 


Du»n. Lynn 

1SS6 Klo/.mer Music in .AmeriCti Revival and Hevond jewssh R>lklore and Fthnologv Newslet- 
ter. Voi. 8, No. 1-2 
Sapo/nik, Hcnrv 

1%7 The Compleat Kle/mer Cedarhur‘*t. \.^ Tara Publications 
Si .bin. Mark 

1^82 lenenient ^ongv The l\>pular Mu**iL of leui**!! Inimi^ratum khica^o: L niversitv ut Illinois 

N82 Old jewish Folk Music The C'ltllectums of Moshe Berc);ovski. Philadelphia Universitv of 
Pennsylvania Press 
Spottsuoud. Richard K. 

1984 Hthnic Music on Records. A Disco^;raphy uf Fthmc Recordings Prode«'ed in the United States. 
1844-1442 L'rbana Unnersits of Illinois Press (m press) 

Ml()lek. Eleanor Gord«>n 

1472 Mir Troj;n A L»e/anu New V>rk Workman's C ircle 

1 2 ft 




198b Chicken. Shnndchie Records (21006). Neu’ton, N.J. 

KirshenbUitt-Gimblctl. Barbara, ed. 

198b R^lksongs in the East European Tradition from the Repertoire of Mariam Niremberg Global 
Village (GVM 117). New York. N.Y. 

Klezmer Conserv'ator)’ Band 

1985 Touch of Klez. Vanguard (VSD 97455). New Y.irk. N.'l. 

Rubin, Ruth 

1959 Jewish Life. The Old Country Rilkways (FG 3801). Wa.shington, DC. 

Sapoznik. Henry, cd. 

1981 Klezmer Music 1910-1942 Rilkwavs (F5S .34021). Washington. DC. 

1985 jakie, Jazz 'em Up. Global Village (GVM 101). New ^nrk. N."). 

Schwartz, Marlin, cd. 

1983 Klezmer Music 1910-1926. R4k Lyric (FL 9034). El Cerrito. CA. 

Tarras, Dave 

1979 Dave Tarras: Master of the lewish Clarinet. Balkan Arts Center (US 1002). New York, N.Y. 




Vol. XIV, Nos. 3-4, 1988 

Italian Music in New York 


Mario Puzo, the author of T}\c Godfather, writes oi his childhood in 
Manhattan's Hell's Kitchen during the 1920s and 1930s: 

As a child in my adolescence, living in the heart of New York's 
Neapolitan ghetto, I never heard an Italian singing . . . And 
so later in my life when I was exposed to all the cliches of lo\'able 
Italians, singing Italians, happy-go-lucky Italians, I wondered 
where the hell the movie makers and story writers got all their 
ideas from. (Puzo 1972: 35). 

Even if the singing Italian was not remembered by Puzo, did he not 
know an Italian with a player piano, a cylinder player, or a phonograph? 
Like his neighbors, did he not go to the puppet theatres, the music halls, 
or the dance halls? Did he not attend Saint's Day street festas and walk in 
procession with the brass band? Did he not drink a toast and sing a chorus; 
or give monev to the zampa^i^m (bagpipe) and cirarculla (reed pipe) players 
during the Christmas season; or listen to the Italian language radio? Puzo's 
remembrances may simply be his own selective memory, for there was a 
rich tradition of Italian folk music in New York. Another author, Sicilian- 
born jerrv Mangione, recalls that during his childhood in Rochester in the 
1920s, music was an integral part of many family celebrations, and: 

Mv rpHfives were never at loss for finding reasons for being 
together. In addition to parties for birthdays, weddings, anni\'er- 
saries, and Saint days, there were also parties when a child was 
baptized, when he was confirmed, and when he got a diploma. 

The arrival of another relative from Sicily or the opening of a 
new barrel of wine was still another pretext for another gather- 
ing of the clan. (Mangione 1978: 14-15). 

Italian Music Traditions 

Anthropologist Anna Chairetakis writes that "a powerful cultivated 
tradition in art. music and literature" developed early in Italy's history. 

1 3 I. 


There it grew up primarily, though not entirely, in the cities of 
Central and Northern Italy and was exported to the South by 
nobles and their followers. There also grew up two distinct tradi- 
tions in folk culture — that of the peasants and laborers, and 
that of the urban artisans. For many centuries there was a 
creative give and take among the three traditions. In recent 
times, however, the artistic cultures of the peasants and artisans 
(the group which primarily immigrated to this country) 1: ave 
been increasingly deprived of their legitimacy, dignity and func- 
tions by forces such as nationalism, mass education and media. 

The elite "great traditions" such as opera and chamber music 
have, on the other hand, received more support and promo- 
tion. (Chairetakis 1985: 5). 

Diego Carpitella, Alan Lomax, and other scholars collected folk music 
in Italy in the 1950s. In the mountains of South and Central Italy and the 
islands of Sicily and Sardinia they uncovered a trove of folk songs that were 
quite different from the standard "sophisticated" music of the North and 
the cities of the South. .i areas, a lower standard of living and the 
relative undevelopment and lack of modernization had left ancient styles 
relatively intact. Influences of Africa and the Near East were more promi- 
nent than those of Alpine musical traditions (Carpitella 1960; Lc^max 1957a, 
1957b). Again, as Chairetakis notes: 

Music is perhaps the most telling indicator of the cultural and 
historical divide between Northern and Southern Italy. The 
South's music is influenced by the Mediterranean civilizations, 
including those of the Middle East and Africa; the North's music 
is contiguous with village music traditions of Old Central 
Europe, and is also colored by Western European musical in- 
fluences of relatively recent origin. (Chairetakis 1986: 3). 

Italian Immigration and Early Italian Music in New York 

Italians are diverse and there are significant differences in language 
and culture between the regions of Italy. Italian unification occurred only 
in the 1860s, and thus the cultural differences between regions was enor- 
mous during the early part of the 20th century when the major wave of 
immigation to America took place. The differences between regions in Ita- 
ly still exist today, and can be seen among new immigrants who have ar- 
rived since the mid-1960s when changes in American laws led to renewed 

Until the 1860s, the few Italians who imniigrated to the United States 
were generally upper-class well-educated northerners. They were follow- 
ed by southern Italian coutadini, peasants with lit or no formal educa- 
tion. Their decisions to leave Italy were the result of a combination of factors: 


poverty; continued civil war that remained unresolved even after the 
unification of Italy in the 1860s; unsympathetic northern Italian overlords; 
a series of natural disasters; and an America that welcomed their labor. 

Bxj 1940, more music recordings had been produced by 
Italian-Americans than by any other non-English- 
speaking group in the U.S. 

In 1910, New York City's Little Italy had a population of approximately 
350,000. This large population desired its own forms of traditional enter- 
tainment, Lou Rossi, a man now' in his mid-70s, operates E. Rossi & Com- 
pany on the corner of Grand and Mulberry Streets in Little Italy. He 
remembers entering the family's business as a young boy delivering rolls 
of Italian music for player pianos. The family remained involved in pro- 
ducing and distributing Italian music for many years. They published and 
sold sheet music, and recorded and issued records on their own Geniale 
and Azzurro labels. In addition, they advised the large non-Italian owned 
record companies on what music to record, and sold those recordings as 
they were issued. 

Italian-Americans were record buyers. From 1894 to 1942, at least 473 
individuals and groups made Italian ethnic recordings in America. Most 
of these recordings were produced in the New York area, since many of 
the recording companies and music of the nation's Italian population were 
located in the metropolitan region. Indeed, by 1940, more language and 
music recordings had been produced by Italian-Americans than by any 
other non-English-speaking group in the United States,* 

The range of material recorded and issued is tremendous: unaccom- 
panied singing, polyphonic singing, archaic instruments (for example La 
Zampopfi^na, the bagpipe; La Ciaramella, the shawm; // Triccaballacche, a clap- 
per made of three wooden hammers); modern instruments: mandolins; 
accordions - diatonic pushbutton and fisarmotiica - chromatic 

piano), clarinets, and violins; spoken word (comedy, sermons, drama); large 
military bands and small band ensembles as well as accompanied singers. 
These records were made for Italian American consumption. They were 
not simply recordings of high culture Italian opera and "classical" music 
but rather a mix of popular entertainments, regional folk music, and hybrid 
Italian-American materials. 

Some artists like Edwardo Migliaccio, also known as Farfariello, 
developed uniquely American forms of Italian entertainments. He per- 
formed musical skits with titles like II Re Dei Bottlcgi^ers (The King of the 
Bootleggers), Ciniailautc Bella (Beautiful Coney Island) and Pascalc '£ 
Mulbcrn/ Stritte (Patsy of Mulberry Street) which evoked ev'ents and places 
that were almost unknown in Italy and in a language that was part stan- 

Three generations of the Pietrangelo family of Buffalo and Niagara Falls: Tony, 
Antonio, and Francesco. Photo: Stephen Mangione. 

Vic Pctronella and Chuck Cordonc, popular community musicians in Buffalo. Photo: 
Stephen Man^^ione. 



dard Italian, part dialect and part English. He performed on stage as well 
as recording over 125 sides between the years 1907 to 1935 (Schlesinger 

The record advertisements did not say only "Italian/' but also Abriizzesc, 
Barcse, Siciliam, Tuscan, Calabrese and other regions. Regional not national, 
identity was the rule. One of Lou Rossi's brothers, Ed, gave Neapolitan 
lessons to Sicilian singers in the city so that when they recorded, it would 
"sound right." In this case "sounding right" meant appealing to the record's 
potential New York buyers, the majority of whom were immigrants from 
southern Italy — not Sicily or northern Italy. 

Current Practitioners and Revivalists 

A number of traditional rural and village musical practices continue 
to survive in Italian immigrant communities in New York State and in 
neighboring New Jersey. For example, Giuseppe De Franco of Bellville, New 
Jersey, continues to perform Calabrian tarantellas on the organetto (button 
accordion), while his wife Raffaela De Franco sings ballads, lullabies, 
serenades, devotional and love songs in a tense high-pitched style 
characteristic of southern Italy. Angelo Fiorello, a Sicilian-born barber cur- 
rently living in Buffalo, is an outstanding performer of Sicilian folk songs 
and sung poetry known as stonielhi Antonio Pietrangelo, his son Francisco, 
and his grandson Tony represent three generations of organetto players 
from the Buffalo/Niagara Falls region. The elder Pietrangelo, from the 
Abruzzi region of south-central Italy, has passed on his repertoire of tradi- 
tional waltzes, polkas, and mazurkas. These and other traditional Italian- 
American musicians still perform for family singing, holiday gatherings, 
and church related events. However, they cannot support themselves finan- 
ciallv as performers, for by-and-largc their music is considered antiquated 
and is generally ignored by the larger Italian-American community in New 

In the early 1980s, Anna Chairetakis recorded several outstanding older 
musicians in the Italian communities of the Niagara Frontier Region of New 
York State and southern Ontario. This effort was an outgrowth of a 1979 
Buffalo-based survey of Italian folk arts by anthropologists working with 
local Italian-Americans. The results of their work were incorporated into 
the Scampagnata Folk Festival of Western New York held at Lewiston's Art- 
Park from 1979-1984. Performers presented staged interpretations of com- 
munity work party (such as cornhuskings) music, the cuzana of the cart 
driver, the music of carnival, ancient ballads of cinwuarc (neighbors) of the 
sew’ing circle, and drinking songs of the taverns (see Global Village Music 
#675-678). The festival contributed to an increased awareness of the diver- 
sity of Italian folk culture in the region. 

In 1983 the Ethnic Folk Arts Center presented the first in a series of 
musical concerts titled ''Musica Popolarc.' The tour featured regional music, 
song, dance and folk poetry from Southern Italy and Sardinia. Performed 

1 3 5 


by Italian and Italian-American musicians and supported by the Italian 
government and American federal and state arts endowments, the con- 
certs were presented at sites throughout New York State and in other parts 
of the United States. Among the styles and instruments included were Sar- 
dinian luudeddas (a triple oboe) played by one of its last masters, Dionigi 
Burranca; Calabrian Villanella choral singing by Carmine Ferraro, and other 
residents of Westerly, Rhode Island; ^ and Neapolitan tammurriata singers 
and percussionists from Bellville, New Jersey. 

Buffalo's Coro Alpino, at Artpark, Leiviston, NY. Photo: Donald Summers, 

In addition there are increasing signs of a revival of inK est in tradi- 
tional music within New York's Italian community. For example, in 1984, 
Brooklyn born Gino DiMichele, the son of Italian immigrants, recorded 
an album of mandolin and guitar duets with Matteo Casserino, a man- 
dolinist from Pozallo, Sicily. Their playing has the coloration and spirit of 
the mandolin music recorded during the early decades of this century. As 
the liner notes to the album recount, Casserino was "apprenticed at the 
age of twelve to a local carpenter, he spent his free lime with his musi- 
cians friends, practicing, playing at weddings and parties, and seranading 
on street corners. In 1936, Matteo immigrated to the United States, and 
for the next 23 years he rarely played the mandolin. He travelled around 
America, working as a carpenter and cabinet maker and raising a family. 
He eventually settled in San Francisco where one day in 1959, while sit- 
ting in a barbershop in the city's Italian district, he spotted a mandolin 
h<mging on the wall. Matteo took it down and began playing the tunes 



he had learned years before in another barbershop. Encouraged by the 
response of the shop's customers, he started practicing and was soon per- 
forming on weekends as a duo with Nick Sfarzo, a talented blind guitarist." 

For American-born DiMichele, playing with Casserino has been a 
rediscovery of his heritage which he had denied for many years. He played 
American folk music in Greenwich Village in the late 50s and early 60s 
under the name of Gene Michaels. His interest in Italian music was re- 
kindled in 1978 when he met Casserino and they teamed up to play at Italian 
restaurants and cafes. They have performed at the National Folk Festival 
and the San Francisco Festival of the Sea, and they now play regular lun- 
cheon performances at an Italian restuarant in San Francisco. 

I Giullari Di Piazza is a New York City based troupe of musicians, singers 
and actors who perform adaptations of theaterical and musical traditions 
from southern Italy. The troupe interprets folk-based material with a cast 
of first and second generation Italian-Amencans as well as non-Italians. 
Their performances borrow from American theaterical and musical tradi- 
tions as well as the Italian traditional music revival popularized by groups 
such as Nuova Couipai^iia Di Canto Popolarc in Italy. 

Another recent grassroots expression of Italian folk culture was a series 
of Christmas music pageants presented by Antonio Romano, a young im- 
migrant from iMolise, who earns his living running a Cafe in Little Italy. 
Performed with a troupe of musicians, friends, and relatives, his Christmas 
pageants were advertised as "Natalc Ncl Siui Italia / Zatjipon^jic Or;^anctti 
■ Musica Rc^ionalc Molise / Calabria. " It is a loose!}' run grassroots \'ersion 
of / Giullari Di Piazza presentations. 

In America renewed interest in traditional music during the past twenty 
vears has gone hand and hand with reissues of recordings of master musi- 
cians, The revival of Je\vish klezmer music, Anglo-American string band 
music, and Celtic instrumental music ha\'c all been fueled by reissues of 
classic recordings that sen'e as source material for younger musicians to learn 
repertoire and style. Recent reissues of older Italian-Arnerican recordings 
mav indeed be starting to serve a similar function.^ 

Within New York's Italian community there is continued support for 
so-called "high art" forms such as opera. In 1986, La Follia Di New York, 
the oldest Italian cultural magazine in America, marked its 94th year of 
publication with "Eroica Philharmonia," a gala concert at Ne\v York City's 
Town Hall featuring "some of today's top operatic performers from the 
Metropolitan Opera and the Ne\v York City Opera " 1986 \vas also the year 
the magazine began bi-lingual publication, its base ot readers fluent in 
Italian having dwindled. La Follia announced it was proud to "continue 
to reach a select list of readers dedicated to the arts. Its efforts will con- 
tinue to reach the cream of the crop of Ital-Americans, who are opera Im’ers 
and also lowrs i.)f gtmd food." (Reagon 1980 : 1 ). 

Saint's Day festas have been going on in the streets of New York for 
almost as long as Italian communities have been present. Jacob Riis wrote 
in 1899 of a San Donato's feast day at which the musicians blew "Santa 
Lucia" on their horns and noted that 

San Donato's feast-day is one of very many such days that are 
celebrated in New York in the summer months. By what magic 
the calendar of Italian saints was arranged so as to bring so 
many birthdays within the season of American sunshine I do 
not know. But it is well. (Riis 1975: 40) 

Curt) Trento of BrookJyir Photo courtesy of Mario Dallao, 

Almost 90 years later, the bands play on in New York as well as in other 
cities although their existence is often threatened. Mary jo Sanna writes that 

the lack of community bands forces the Italian feast commit- 
tees to hire outside professional bands. Today band members 
are paid individually for playing, while in the past, if there was 
money involved, it would go directly to the band. The reper- 
toire has expanded from stately Italian marches and operatic 
excerpts to include non-Italian material. (Sanna 1988: 10) 

In New York, pseudo-Italian music such as the theme from the movie 
Rock}/ IS played by bands similar to one Sanna has documented. The feast 
bands and Italian American professional performers have added the Italo- 
Pop tunes of the past and those tunes have, in turn, become part of the 
Italian-American tradition. The theme from the 1972 movie The Godfather 
is not old enough to be performed along with other classics such as Santa 
Lucia and Arrivcderci Roma. 

Traditional-derived Italian music will undoubtedly surv^ive in New York 
for some time to come. The influx of new Italian immigrants continues to 
supply the New York community with outstanding players and musical 
ideas from the old-country. Meanwhile, a new generation of Italian- 
Americans is taking a more active interest in their heritage and starting 
to learn from the older practitioners of their traditional music. Perhaps, 
like the Italian revival troupe Nuoz'a Cotnpa^nia di Canto Popolare, they will 
reinterpret traditional styles in innovative new ways. Whether the result 
will be a major revitalization remains to be seen. If so, first, second, and 
third generation descendents of immigrants will look back to rediscover 
their traditions and forward to affirm with pride their identity as Italian- 


ri'cordingb m.iko up the I.irguM section ot the\- version or Richcird K 
sutioos Ufnih Mu>u oti Rctonh ' ^ 

3(1 r.>du, fH.rform,„uv of Cal.,bnan .mger 

t Jrmino Icrr.lro (or (ho public radio program, 'Old Traditions - .Vow Sounds" ^ 

*’l ' " W13-1424 including marching tunes 

and popu ar love songs an unaccompanied lullabv, a comedv skit and poignant in.mdolin 
melodies, t WL / ’I'pioit, I, and (. WO .s, /v..,/iir are f.vo volumes of Malian mande'in 

;r."77.7s'7t ;- :r -any mles. from acconrpanis, to singers, 

to <1 \urtuosos tool. (See Schlesinger l^SSA. 198RR) ^ 

Ri-i‘i Ri \ns nriio 

(. <)rpitell«i. Oiego 

1%() "l^<'lkNIusk: Itjly ." /m eirove Dicth»n.iryot NIuMCund .\luMUjns =^th ed vel \ .\eu V»rk 

St. Mjrtins Press. 

C.issorino. Mjtteo dnd Ciino DiN.ichele 

Silent R)untdin. Odkuays 4lN01h 
C'hdiretdkiv. Anna I. 

Program bouklet. Music.i Popolare. Hthnic Arts kenter. m5 

kantate Con \’oi. Chorale Songs from Ktna and the Alps and N intagi* Popular Musu irom 
South- entral Italv Global X .llage Musk C.AM .78 I |‘> and k (v8. uissJtte u ith bculiet 
U»ma\. .Alan & Diego Carpitclla 

l'R7a Northern & Central Maly. Columbia fVorld Mibrarv ol I-olk & r'rimilive .Music Vol XV C oM 
umbia Mastorworks Kl. SI73 LI’ ^ ^ ■ a> e oi 

l‘)37b Southern Malv and the Islands Colun.hia fVorld l.ibrarv ol sC- |•rlmlMv,. NU.sic 
\M kolumbia Masterworks Kl. =il74 l.P. 

-Mangume. ferre 

N83 An LthnK At Lirge Philadelphia: L’niversitv ol IVnnsvbania fVess 




1 lell's Kitchen, h Tliomas C Wh^'olor, cd.. The Immisrant Uspcrionco, Now ^S.>rk: 
Ponj;uin Books, pp. 35-4^^. 

Publish Bi-Lingu.illy. h> r^)llio Oi Now York. Uil ^^3. No. .=^ November ['JcH.-embor 
1986. unpaginatod. 

Quoted in Wayne and Charles Van Ooren, ods.. A Documentary Ihstorv ot the Italian 
Americans. MiKjuin. Now York: Praoger Publishers, p. 315. 

^ Uailin and PnrU.fiuoso Villaso Bands in Massachusotts. In l>ro«ran,, Fostival ol Amorioan 
Folklife. pp. 10-12. 

Schlesinger. Michael and Pat Conte i \- n , » . \ imcJ ■ f ' Afil 

1986 Rimpianto: Italian Miisie in America, 1915-1929. New V>rk; Uobal \ illage Musie C 601 

1988a LrXppuntamento. Italian Folkscmgs. Polkas and Wall/.es Played b\ tlu Great Mandc)linist.'. 

Volume One (1913-1928). New ^ork: Global Vilkige Music C 602 P cassette. 

1988b Speran/e Perdue. Italian Folksongs. Polkas and Walt/es Played by the Great Mandolin ists. 
Volume Two (1928-1950). New Vwk: Global Village Music C 603 P c'assetle. 

^7nHn'''Tlhnio NUwu- 14'cnrd.,: A nis.nrtr.iphv nf Ihhn.v Rccordinss I'rnduced in tlw L nitvd St.itos 
1894 to ]942. Lrban.v L'niwrsitv of Illinois Press (in press). 


C,nH.Hr Con .Voi. Oi.'nj/ S.^iys honi hlrui an./ tnv /\:>sa?id V'm/ayc /b/ui/ar Masu (Jen/ ra/ //«/»/ 

c;/.'hi/ D//asr .Ui/>/c CV'M tCS /.P and C 678 ca>.M'//c U’lt/i hookht h/ Amm 1.. L/ianc/a^is. 1986. 
C/jCi/a / hi \h,iGi CaMn<c 7 /(- Sc*uthern Italian Mountain Music from Calabana. Camc»pania. Basilicata 
and Abru//i. kdobal \'iHago Music CA'M 675 LP and C 675 cassette with booklet, by Anna I.. 

( hairetakis. 1986. . i n 

Im amv/esMi D Onnn. bicilian Traditumal Songs and Music. Global \ iHage Musk CA . . ^ n 

and C 676 677 cassette with, booklet, b, Anna 1.. (.'hairetakis, 1986. 

Italian [-'olksongs. Polkas and Walt/es Played bv the Great N and.^inists. ^^lumeOne 
(1913-1928) C'.lohal Village Musu (. 6t)2 P cassette. I.iner notes by Michael Schlesinger and I at 

Nk.rUiern Ualv. Ci>liimbia World Librar>- ot & Primitive- Music. Vol, XV C'olumbia Master- 

v.orks KL 5171 l.P. Liner nc*tes bv Alan l^)ma\, 1957 . . . u 

\<imyum\o Italian Miisic in -\merican. 1915-1929 Globa! \ illage Music C 601 cassette Liner notes by 

Mkhael Schlesinger and Pat Conte. 1986. i i r- u,,.. 

Southein Ualv and the Islands ( olnmbia World I ihrarx d Folk Primitive- Musie \ol W 1. Colum- 
bia Masterworks. KL 5174 LI' Liner notes bv Alan Lmia\. 1957 
S; P. niuc Italian Folksong- Polkas and Walt/es played by the Great Mane^edmists \edumo Fuo 
(1928-195(1) C'.uehal Village Natsic ( h()3 I' easse’tle I im-r notes by Michael Schlesinger anel 1 at 
C onle. 19SS 

Vol. XIV, Nos. 3-4, 1988 

Puerto Rican Music in New Yo^k City 


The music most frequently associated with the Puerto Rican community 
in New York City is the popular commercial m,usic known as salsa, but there 
arc many other forms of music that flourish in varying degrees in the com- 
munity. In fact, salsa itself is not a music form. Rather, it is a particular 
style of playing and instrumentation that is based on a variety of older 
musics that have been redefined and reinterpreted in the salsa format. The 
Cuban son, which had become very popular in Puerto Rico in the early 
1930s, provided the primary basis for salsa, but other Caribbean musics, 
including many traditional Puerto Rican forms, have also been interpreted 
in the salsa style. 

Traditional Puerto Rican music was first brought to New York during 
the migrations of many thousands of Puerto Ricans that began in the 1920s 
and reached a peak in the decade following World War II. Changing and 
diminishing opportunities for performance of traditional music, combin- 
ed with the popularity of commercial music, overshadowed and threatened 
the health of Puerto Rican folk music in New York. Traditional music was 
relegated primarily to holidays and special occasions, and was practiced 
largely by an traditional population. 

The large and powerful Latino identity movements of the late 1960s 
and early 70s, however, v\dth their focus not only on social and economic 
justice but on seeking the roots of their own cultures, brought about a 
renewed interest in traditional musical forms on the part of younger New 
York Puerto Ricans. Presently, in addition to informal grassroots perfor- 
mances of traditional music, Puerto Rican musicians have organized for- 
mal groups to perpetuate the traditional styles and present them to both 
in-group and more general audiences. 

Puerto Rican Migrations to New York 

Over the course of nearly a century, the United States and Puerto Rico 
have had a unique and controversial relationship that has resulted in the 
New York area having the largest Puerto Rican population outside of the 
Island. Puerto Rico became a protectorate of the United ?' 'tes in 1898 when 
Spain ceded its Island colony following the Spanish-An.erican war. From 



that moment on, the history of United States-Puerto Rico relations has been 
marked by the unsuccessful but continuing struggle of the Puerto Rican 
people to gain control of their own political, economic and cultural destiny. 

A distinguishing feature of the colonial relationship was that in 1917 
citizenship was imposed on the Puerto Rican people over the opposition 
of the Island's Resident Commissioner and its House of Delegates. It was 
no coincidence that the Congressional Act that made Puerto Ricans citizens, 
also made Puerto Rican men subject to United States draft laws at the ad- 
vent of World War I. The 1917 act also served to forestall any concerted of- 
ficial effort on the Island to obtain independence or greater control over 
its own interests. 

Citizenship also facilitated the movement of Puerto Ricans from the 
Island to the mainland, eliminating the delays and restrictions faced by 
other immigrant groups. The agricultural mechanization begun early in 
the century by North American investors began to decline in the 1920s and 
totally collapsed in the 1930s, displacing large numbers of rural workers 
to the cities and the mainland. By 1940, all sectors of the Island's economy 
were in chaos. 

At the end of World War II, U.S. government economists predicted a 
shortage of nearly two million workers for private industry and the ser- 
vice sector. The need for cheap labor on the mainland, coupled with an 
already monstrous unemployment situation on the Island, led to what has 
been called the migratory explosion in the 1940s, which lasted until the 
end of the 1950s. Tens of thousands of Puerto Ricans, the vast majority 
of w'hom were poor, rural, fairly young, unskilled, and with little formal 
education, left their homeland to seek employment on the mainland. While 
Puerto Ricans have i »ttled in every state, the New York City area has by 
far the largest population, approximately one million (1980 Census), near- 
!v equaling that of Puerto Rico itself. 

In the late 1940s, Puerto Rican immigrants from the same home towns 
began to form "home-town" social clubs in New York. These clubs, named 
after the home towns, were intended to re-create the Island culture. 
They also gave members a means of coping with an alien culture, 
assisted newcomers in adapting to life in the city, and provided a forum 
for the discussion of the problems of daily existence. The clubs were 
decorated with artifacts, memorabilia and photographs from home. They 
were family-oriented places where members could come together to 
socialize in a manner they had been used to on the Island. The music per- 
formed in the dubs provided entertainment and aided in creating a sense 
of the home town. Although as a venue for social interaction the impor- 
tance of the clubs began to decline in the early 1960s, they served a valuable 
function in providing a locus for the perpetuation of traditional homeland 
culture, including music. 



The Puerto Rican migrations and the growing population and musical 
influence of other Hispanic peoples in New York have resulted in an array 
of Latino music styles being performed by Puerto Rican New Yorkers. These 
include traditional Puerto Rican jibaro musiC/ and bowba and plena; Afro- 
Cuban rumba and ritual music; popular salsa music; styles rooted in tradi- 
tion but which bridge the gap between traditional and salsa; and experimen- 
tal styles generally referred to as Latin jazz; as well as other Caribbean music 
styles such as Dominican meren^ue. Additionally, non-latinos and Latinos 
other than Puerto Ricans play these musics, and some Puerto Ricans play 
a variety of styles. The reality of life in New York City, with its many overlap- 
ping cultural, economic and geographic boundaries, combined with an 
underlying similarity among different cultural practices — especially Carib- 
bean -- makes for a very fluid and complex network of musicians and music 

Traditional Music 

There arc two primary categories of traditional Puerto Rican music 
played in New York, jibaro music and bomba and phma. Although they are 
both deeply rooted in the soil of the Island, each is derived from a dif- 
ferent source. The Spanish derived jibaro music is identified with the in- 
terior mountain areas, while the Afri-ran derived luniiba and phma are 
associated with the coastal regions. 

jibaro is an indigenous term used to identify people from the interior 
rural, mountainous regions of Puerto Rico, jibaros are mainl\' of Spanish 
ance.stry and the traditions brought by Spanish settlers to the interior 
regions served as a basis for the formation of the unique cultural expres- 
sii)n of the campesinos (farmers — also known as jibaros). The music of the 
cajnpesinos developed a distinctive Puerto Rican flavor that reflects and ex- 
presses the land and its people. 

A typical jibaro ensemble consists of solo voice, guitar, yfifre (a scraped 
notched gourd) and one or two cuatros (a small 10-stringed guitar-like in- 
!T strument). Since the 1950s, some jibaro ensembles, such as Conjunto 

fc Melodia Tropical (see Fig. 1), have added bongo drums, jibaro music con- 

f sists of both instrumental pieces and accompanied singing. The lyrics, set 

in poetic verses that ma\' be either improvised on the spot, or pre- 
composed, or a combination of both, express the iibaro's intense lo\'c tor 
the land and the lifestyle of the countryside. 

In early nineteenth-century Puerto Rico, large plantations (haaendas) 
were formed as a result of Spanish land grants, which gave one tamily, 
well-connc^ted to the colonial government, control over large portions ot 
land, much iT which was already being worked independently by jibaros. 
Under the hacicuda s\'stem, the jibaros became sharecroppers. The iiacicu- 
dado> — landowivTS — percei^■ed themselves as part of tlie aristocratic class 
with ties to the urban aristocracy and colonial government, rather than 



as part of an agrarian class. Their aristocratic lifestyle was carried over to 
their country homes, into which they brought pianos and the European 
music of the salons of the cities. The piano, the European music played 
on it, and the orchestras brought from the cities to the haciendas for special 
occasions, were symbols that reinforced the hadendados' aristocratic preten- 
tions. Through the hacieudados, the campesinos came into contact with such 
European instrumental dance forms as thevals (waltz), polka and mazurka, 
which they adapted to their own expressive style and instrumentation and 
which have become an integral part of the jibaro music repertoire. 

Figure 1. Con junto Mehdia Trophcai Photo: Martha Cooper/City Lore. 

The danza was a form popular among the elite in the urban areas of 
Puerto Rico. It was written by composers using the Western art-music struc- 
ture of a clearly marked introduction/refrain and two or more contrasting 
sections, and was performed by dance orchestras modeled on European 
salon ensembles. During the 19th century, it became popular among the 
elite all over the Caribbean and, like the earlier European dance forms, 
was adapted by local cainpesiiio ensembles. 

In addition to the adaptations of European dance music, the campesinos 
possess a rich and varied repertoire of forms, such as the a^uijialdo and 
various ^ypesof se/s. These forms, although influenced bv Spanish-derived 
traditions, arc so expressive of the jibaro world view and lifestyle that, in 
the words of one jibaro singer in New York City, "'they could onlv have come 

from our mountains'' (interview with Quique Galarza, 1987). 

The seis takes its name from a six-couple dance and refers to a variety 
of music and dance forms, although not all seises are intended for danc- 
ing. Seises are identified in a number of ways: by town of origin, such as 
the seis de Fajardo; type of dance, as in seis choreao; type of text, as in seis 
con decima; harmonic structure, as in seis niapmye; or composer, such as seis 
de Adino. Seis mapai/e is more commonly known as le-lodai, after the vocables 
sung at the beginning.^ of each verse. Ledo-lai is characterized by a more 
varied harmonic structure than the other seises and by its minor mode. 
Because of its characteristic vocables it is also one of the most easily 
recognizable forms of seis. Improvised texts about home, the land, 
motherhood, and idealized love invariably evoke for nostalgia for Puerto 
Rico among listeners, whether or not they were born on the Island. 

Seis con decima has the slowest tempo of all seises and is one of the few 
not danced. The text is based on an old 10-line Spanish verse form, known 
as decima, which provides a fixed structure within which singers may im- 
provise their texts. Jibaro singers frequently use stylized imagery to pay 
homage to the beautv of the homeland and its people. The decima is found 
throughout the Caribbean and Latin America, and is incorporated into other 
forms of jibaro music, such as the a;^uinaldo. 

The aij^iiimddo differs from danzas, seises and other European-derived 
dance forms because it is associated with a particular season. The word 
a;^uinaldo means "Christmas or New Year's gift" and during the Christmas 
sea.son, groups of singers and musicians travel from house to house in parr- 
andas (carolling parties) singing The texts, which are based on 

the dixima verse structure, may be religious, secular, or a combination of 
both. The Christmas season in Puerto Rico begins in early November, and 
continues through Octavitas, eight days after cl dia de Reyes (Three Kings 
Dav) on January bth. 

With the migration of campesiuo^ from the rural to urban areas of the 
Island in the 1930s, jibaro music underwent a shift in function. In the coun- 
tryside the music remained a part of everyday life in formal and informal 
contexts. In the cities of Puerto Rico, special celebrations such as weddings, 
baptisms and holidays became the primary settings for this music. In New 
York, jibaro music was played in the hometown social clubs where, once 
again, it was used for informal entertainment as well as on special occasions. 

There are still some expert practitioners of jibaro music in New York. 
Many continue to play for themselves and their communities throughout 
the year, especially at Christmas time and in special celebrations. Some have 
organized into formal ensembles to play at Puerto Rican events, festivals, 
and public concerts. Additionally, folk arts organizations such as City Lore, 
the Ethnic Folk Arts Center, the Caribbean Culture Center, the Associa- 
tion of Hispanic Arts, and the World Music Institute, present jibaro music 
both within the communitv and for wider audiences. 

1 4 ; 1 


Although the music holds a special meaning for the elders, many 
younger Puerto Ricans — especially those who grew up with jibaro music 
in their homes — feel an affinity for the music. Some play it with their 
elders in the traditional manner, while others play it in an updated style 
using electric c/azfro, guitar, bass, bongos, and other instruments not tradi- 
tionally associated with jibaro music. Some years ago, Willie Colon, a noted 
salsa musicians, included Yomc) Toro, a well-known jibaro cuatro player on 
a very successful Christmas album. This album served to validate jibaro 
music traditions — even in the context of a salsa band — for Puerto Rican 
youth who considered thena passe. 

"Latinos and non-Latinos — including black and white 
American, Japanese, and European musiciaj2S — find the 
synthesis of Latin rhythms an exciting vehicle for creative 
expression and experimentation." 

Bomba and plena are the onlv distinctive African-derived music and 
dance forms of Puerto Rico. They developed in such coastal towns as Ponce, 
Mayague/ and Loiza Aldea where large communities of Black workers 
gathered around the sugarcane mills in the 1800s. With the displacement 
of people from the Cciastal towns to San Juan and other urban areas in 
search of work in the early 1900s, bomba and plena became an important 
part of urban as well as rural cultural life throughout the Island. Both forms 
of music are performed for entertainment at informal social gatherings. 

There are different types of bomba, each having its own characteristic 
rhythm, but all are danced by a male female couple and dance is an in- 
tegral part of the performance. In the dance, the partners take turns displa\’- 
ing their skills, competing with one another, and "dialoging" with the lead 
drummer by responding to his toques (drum strokes) w'ith dance mov’ements 
and getting him to respond musically to their movements. 

Traditionally, bomba dancing and singing arc accompanied only by per- 
cussion instruments. The ensemble consists of fiui or eiia — a pair of sticks 
struck on a hard resonant surface that provide a fixed organizing rhvthmic 
time-line; maniea; and two or three barrel-shaped botnba drums. Two bom- 
ba drums are the low-pitched buleadores that provide the supporting rh\’thm; 
one is the higher pitched subidor that communicates with the dancers. 

Bomba uses a call-and-response pattern with improvised and traditional 
texts sung by the lead singer who is answered by the chorus in a fixed 
response. The texts are usually on such topical themes as social relation- 
ships, work, or community and historical events. They mav also be spon- 
taneous comments on activities taking place during the performance. 

Although bomba and plena both flourished in the cities, plena was known 



as a street music that came to be associated with night life, especially in 
the San Juan area. Many New York pleueros remember the "Parmcia 21" 
("Stop 21") section of Santurce (named after the local bus slop) where plena 
was played on the streets, at ball games, and in night clubs. Perhaps the 
ease with which the instruments could be carried helped make plena a more 
"portable" music form. 

In contrast to the highly percussive nature of boifiba — where even the 
singing has a rhythmic quality — plena is mt^re melodic. Althc^ugh also 
Africa-derived, plena incorporates more European musical elements than 
does bomba. Additionally, the dance that accompanies plena is a couple 
dance but it is neither an integral part of the performance as in boiiiba, nor 
a vehicle for displaying expertise or in dancing or dialoging with the drum- 
mer. Bomba cannot be performed without the dance; plena often is. 

A number of instrumenl.s may be used in various combinations in the 
plena ensemble. The most characteristic are the panderefas — hand-held 
frame drums of different sizes and pitches that serve the same functions 
as the three drums used in bomba, except that the lead drummer does not 
dialog with the dancers. The lead drum — called requinto — reinforces and 
accents portions of the rhythmic structure of the song text as well as tak- 
ing improvisatorv solos. At least three panden'ta^ are needed for the plena 
ensemble, and some groups have as many as five, although onh' one re- 
(jninto mav be played at a time. The y/l/ro (scraped gourd), playing a fixed 
rh\'thm, is an indispensable part of the plena ensemble, which is traditional- 
Iv rounded out by a harmonica or accordion. A guitar ma\' also be included. 
In recent vears, some ensembles have added a eon^^a drum. Taking their 
name from Panada 21 in the Santurce section of San Juan, Los Pleneros 
de la 21 {see Fig. 2) is one c^f the most acti\’e traditional Inonba and plena 
ensembles in the New York area. The group uses a cnatro to emphasize 
the melodic line and smuetimes a bass for added rh\’thmic and harmonic 

The traditional contexts for bomba and pkma have undergeme many 
changes — from sugarcane mill towns, to urban Island courtyards and 
streets, to the streets and htunetown social clubs of New York. Bondm is 
hardh' ever plaved in New York in the kinds of informal contexts .iiat were 
traditional on the Island, but plena, perhaps because of the portabilit)' of 
the panderetas, js plaved spontaneously at beaches, local ball games, parks 
and other community gathering places, although with 'ess frequency and 
with smaller numbers of participants than on the Island. 

During the past se\ eral years there has been renewed interest in bom- 
ba and plena among younger New York Puerto Ricans. As with jtbaro music, 
new groups are being formed to plav at e\-ents both in the Puerto Rican 
ctimmunity and for multi-ethnic audiences. Additionally, botnba and plena 
are being reinterpreted in the ^aha formal by a number of Island- and Neu 
York-based >aha bands. 



Figure 2. Los Pleucros de la 21. Photo: Martha Cooper/Citi/ Lore. 

Other Music Styles 

There are groups in New York playing in a range of styles rooted in 
tradition but with creativ^e innovations, through salsa to experimental styles 
generally referred to as Latin Jazz. Groups such as Pepe Castillo's Bomplene 
play bomba and plena using traditional and contemporary instrumentation. 
Con;^a drums are substituted for bomba drums, horns and electric bass are 
added, but the other instruments are traditional. The forms are clearly 
recognizable as bomba and plena. They play in a style similar to that of Rafael 
Cortijo, who popularized bomba and plena in the con junto (small band) for- 
mat in the 1950s. 

Many streams converged to form the music that is referred to as salsa, 
but the Cuban son was probably the most important. The son was adopted 
by Puerto Rican musicians on the Island and in New York in the 1930s and, 
in New York, its popularity was reinforced by the interaction between 
Cuban and Puerto Rican musicians who played soji together. 

African-American big-band jazz stimulated the formation of Latin big 
bands that brought Puerto Rican, Cuban and African-American musicians 
together to play in a style that integrated compositional concepts of the 
big band horn sections with full Afro-Cuban rhythm sections. This rela- 
tionship between jazz and Latin music led to the creation of a distinctly 
New York Latin sound, which was played largely by Puerto Rican 

The niambo, an international dance fad of the 1950s, developed out of 
the nuvnbo section of the Cuban son. Puerto Rican big-band leaders Tito 
Puente and Tito Rodriguez, and Cuban-born Machito, expanded the niambo 


sectk^n into its own form and created the first major "cross-over" of Afro- 
Caribbean music. Other Cuban-based dance fads, such as the cha-cho-cha, 
reached a cross-over market and created an interest in Latin music beyond 
the growing Puerto Rican and Cuban communities in New York. 

In addition to the bands that consisted largely of New York Puerto 
Ricans, popular Cuban artists who came to New York to perform, brought 
their music "charts" with them and hired the New York Puerto Rican musi- 
cians to accompany them. The training that the predominantly young New 
York musicians received in these bands, combined with their work in the 
New York-based bands, laid the foundation for the style that came to be 
called .srt/srt in the late 1960s. 

The interaction between the Cuban and Neu' York music scenes end- 
ed with the cessation of diplomatic relations with Cuba in 1962. After that, 
sahn increasingly developed a distinctly New' York flavor. To New York Puer- 
to Rican musicians, w'ho had grown up listening to African-American as 
well as Latino popular music, the former offered a source for new' musical 
ideas. "Boogaloo," a tremendously popular African-American music and 
dance form of the mid-1960s, was adopted by the Latin bands and reinter- 
preted as Latin using standard Latin band instrumentation plus a 

set of trap drums. The Latin rhythm was changed to emphasize the back 
beat— a characteristic of African-American music — and the lyrics were sung 
in Spanish and English. 

The traditional music of the various Latino peoples living in New York 
also served as a source for the New York Latino m.usicians. While prior 
to 1962 Latin popular music was based primarily on Cuban forms (except 
for the popular kmba and plena of Rafael Cortijo mentioned above), after 
that time, forms such as the Colombian ciimbiih Dominican nicrcu^uc, bonh 
b(h plena, and various jibaro forms w'ere reinterpreted in the coujuiito 
(small band) format. 

The influx of Cubans in the early 1980s and the visits of some Cuban 
music ensembles resulted in a reconnection with Cuban style. How'evet, 
>alsa remains a uniquely New' Ytirk phenomenon. Puerto Rican musicians 
are still its primary exponents, although musicians from all over the Carib- 
bean and Latin America also participate in the performance of saha. 

As a commercial label and in popular parlance, the term saha refers 
to a range of ensemble formats and music styles that have as their base 
Latin music forms and rhvthms. But some groups tc'nd mcire than others 
to adhere to the core elements that define the music as Latin. Con junto 
Libre, a group consisting of primarily of Puertc^ Rican srt/sr? musicians iden- 
tify certain musical concepts and values thai are central to the performance 
of Datin music. If these elements are present and are played "correctly" 
in their estimation, then even experimental music that combines a\'ant garde 
instrumentation and modalities can be considered Latin music. Nearly all 
the musical concepts and values thought by this group to be central to salsa 
relate to rhvthmic competence and a percussive approach to performance 



that derives from an African-rooted musical aesthetic. Clave — a two- 
three or three-two rhythmic pattern over two bars — is tlie most salient 
feature of Litin music. Clave serves as a rhythmic organizing principle for 
the entire ensemble and many musicians feel that without it, the music 
cannot be defined as Latin. In addition, similar organizing rhythmic time- 
lines are found in most African-based Caribbean traditional music forms, 
including hoiiiha and plena. 

Many Ajro-Caribbean forms converged to shape it, but 
salsa is a uniquely New York phenomenon. 

Other features, such as the pitch-timbre-rhythm cemplex produced by 
the performance of interlcK'king rhythmic patterns in the drums, are also 
seen as central to the definition of Latin music. In salsa, this musical con- 
cept may be played by three drums, or may take the form of rhythmic in- 
teraction between drums, piano and bass. Ft)r Conjunto Libre, for whom 
musical experimentation and innovation arc a critical part of their approach 
to Litin music, the maintenance of certain aspects of tradition is part 
the process of defining Litin music in their tnvn terms. 

For lack of cj better label, the experimental, highly impnn isatorv music 
that combines Litin rhvthmic structures and instrumentation with jazz and 
avant garde modalities, and contempmarv electrtmic instruments, has come 
to be called Latin Jazz. As is the case with salsa, there is a wide range of 
music styles that fall under this rubic. Mtire than in any tither category 
of Litin music, the participants in this Latin based, tradititm-inspired ex- 
perimental music represent a microctism of New York Cit\'s non- 
mainstream musical world. Litintis and ntin-I>atinos — including black and 
white American, Japanese, and F'umpean musicians find the s\'iithesis tif 
Latin rliylhnis with its wide-ranging innovations, an exciting vehicle for 
creative expression and experimentation. 


The network rel erred tti at the start of this paper, that of musicians 
and the music styles in which they participate, becomes increasingly ctuii- 
plex the further away we move from the traditional music. Almost without 
exception, Puerto Ricans are the onI\' musicians plaving traditional hojiiba, 
plnia and jiharo music, altht>ugh some ol them — primarilv the yciunger 
ones — participate in making music other than that which is clearlv defin- 
ed as traditional. For all of the participants, htnve\’er, there is a sense of 
playing music that is theirs. Music pertormance is a t\'pe tif svmbolic ami- 
munication that serves to reinftirce and affirm ethnic identitv and group 
cohesion. As such, music performance may become part of a political pro- 
cess in which ethnicity is an mganizing principle used to improve group 



Over the past forty vears students of ethnicity (see Bennett, Glazer and 
Moynihan, Royce) have noticed that groups utilize traditional cultural sym- 
Lxils for definitions of their own identity particularly when confronted with 
the pressures of immigration, urbanization and acculturation that call that 
identity into question. The use of traditional symbols renders the past im- 
portant not for its own sake, but for the continuity and grounding it offers 
for contemporarv existence. Thus, all performance of Puerto Rican music, 
whether traditional or tradition-inspired, is a displa\’ of ethnicity b\' the 
performers whether or not they conscitiusl)’ acknowledge that display. 

The Litino identity mo\’ements of the late 196Us and 70s, of w'hich Puer- 
to Ricans were a part, set the stage for a resurgence of interest in tradi- 
tional music styles. For some popular musicians it also served to highlight 
the importance of traditional music elements at a time hen the commer- 
cial industry was molding popular taste and diluting tl e traditional core 
of the music. The issue becomes complex u'hen we consi’ .er that, for Puerto 
Rican musicians pla\ ing the roots lie primarily in uban music. But 
for a generation of \ew York Puerto Ricans who grew i o with Cuban and 
Puerto Rican music, there is no disjuncture: this is their n^usic. Additionally 
by this time they had begun to interpret boitihi, yieua amc. jibnro music forms 
in the format. According to one musician, "There's a nationalistic 
sense of pride when people hear The\' say 'That''- our music. It gi\'es 
people pride in their Ricanness and Latinoness" {inter\ iew u ith Oscar Her- 
nando/, h78). 

Ki c o\i\i' \ni n '<[ \ni\( , 

lU-t'snOt lohn rj 

h'.-i I lu* \ru I lluituu iV h\r- iM-m I Tuu M 111. \iih tu .ih I Ihnolvi' 

i’.Uil M\ 

Mu*, Litin .ind L.iril' 'iMti Pup \i\\ Ouill 

C tMii-r i'ur I’lii rlo KkiUt 

l.ilk'r Jr \li>;i.K uu'i C nnti. ti. iK i.i lii* I i. (. imiIih il»- I rm : t»*i ■ 

t I X'k 

t il.i/tT .iiui Otinii'i I' \li‘\ i ii" 

|t»7^ llhnKit\ .inU KpnutKi* c .imi'tiam-. M \ I ihut'>U\ 

n>piv .xa.iiiH'rtH 

IIk- i’lKTtH'^ Ihi'ir I li'^lnrs ( tillu-r .ind t .nnhiia-.:.- M \ "-lu-nknK;n 

I’liMi'^hini; C Hnip.itu. 1 ik 
Ki'lvrN ii*hn Storm 

!■'"» llu'l^itin hncf Ilu- Imp.K l hI kilm Vnim. .in \1n'>iv hi', ilu- I nili-J \f.'. V»rk vK 

toril I fmor''il\ 

.M ". .1 \nm.i I’l'lHr'.Hn 

I ihnk klviuit\ ‘''ti.iii .;u'' <'t 1 k'. i i "IIn l‘t|> u .ininrl ' h h.i! iuminiIv ru-'-' 

Sin>;n' Unln'it I 

M\ Mu''K In \Min I -Vni .mil U I Oh Uitin rt'piil.ii \UiNit .itiJ kk nltlv m \ru ’Snrk 

( tt\ l*li P PiNst-rtiitiutr IiuImiki I ni\riNii\ 

.mJ Kt>brrl \ 1 ritklnKin 

I'C"' \lhun- 'tmr I > c .ilu-ntr lint I'lmrlH Ki. nn .uul < n'\.n \iu t .i! 1 vptVN' inr... tn \^n^ 

'iHtk V u Wnrlvl KfvHMiN XUJ.U 



CtilionU* Hoi: PultIo Rir«in and Cubati Musical [-Aprrssmn in Wu ^ork. New World Roc«)rds, 

C o on. Wiilu* and I lector UiVoe 

l-)74 Asalto N’avidono. (With mvrtcd ^uosi ^omo Toro) N't f-ama 
Conjunto Melodia Tropical and !x>s I’lenenis de la 21 

Christmas alburn produced bv the Rthnic Folk Arts Center and Rene lope/ Shanachie 

Cuban & Puerto Kican Music: With Lt»s Pleneros Je la 21, Se\tet(» ( riollo, and Orland«^ i*untrlla Rios. 

Music of the World Mil. 1987. 

Cir jpo Folklorico v Kxperrmental N'uevayorquino 
H7 t concepts in Unity Salst>ul SAL 4110. 

Vol. XIV, Nos. 3-4, 1988 

"Rock the House:" 

The Aesthetic Dimensions of Rap Music 
in New York City 


People don't understand our [rap] music because . . . we're not 
worried about what they're saying. V\^'re worried about the 
beat, worried about how it gets our spirits moving . . . That's 
just it. We're one on one with the rappers; and we think we 
are them when we're dancing (Fuller 1984). 

Although rap music currently receives a great deal of attention on the 
radio and has had significant success on pop charts, it may be considered 
folk music for at least two reasons. First, and perhaps most obviously, rap 
draws on older African and African-American stylistic and aesthetic sen- 
sibilities. In rap music and its accompanying dance forms we find the call 
and response of southern black preachers and their congregations, the 
rhythmic syncopation of early jazz and jubilee vocal quartets, the complex 
improvisations of jazz scat singers, the boastful rhymes of street "toasts" 
and "pla\'ing the dozens," and the competitive spirit of ring play and 
hallenge dancing. Secondly, as this inquiry will explore, rap music 
developed and continues to flourish within a community-based Afro- 
American youth culture. 

Rap music is, first and foremost, black urban dance-party music. The 
very name, "rap" music, suggests an emphasis on verbalization, but it is 
much more than its words. As it developed in the context of parties where 
dancing to records was the primary social concern, black adolescents push- 
ed the activity of playing records beyond previously imagined boundaries. 
Rap music is a rhythmic pastiche composed by a master D] (musician) and 
a virtuoso rhvming MC (rapper or rap group). DJs combine and juxtapose 
bits and pieces of recc-irds creating a beat to u'hich MCs set their spoken 

The performers' primary concern is to establish a lively relationship 
with the audience — to "keep their hands clappin', fingers snappin', feet 
tappin'." In doing so, they demonstrate the structural pattern of call-and- 
response which is integral to successful rap performances. Yet. as R.F. 



Thompson a55Sorts in his performance approach to African art, these 
elements constitute more than matters of structure, they "are in actuality 
levels of perfected social interaction" (Thompson 1974: 28). For example, 
the highest aesthetic achievement in rap music is to "rock the house," mean- 
ing the performers engage the active support of those on the dance floor 
through their participation, thereby extending the boundary of performance 
to include both the leader and followers in concert. The central context 
referred to in rap lyrics is the ubiquitous "party" MCs comment on it, and 
in turn, talk about their obligation to it. Rhymes often boast of an MCs 
ability to control the party, thereby validating his or her own claim to fame. 
A typical line is: "Nmv Tm the best rapper in the U.5.A. cause 1 can rock 
this party seven different ways" (Blackstar 1984). But an MCs success is 
not insured bv self-acclaim alone; recognition comes with the direct 
response from the dance Hoor. Slu, a voung MC from the South Bronx, 

i-mceeing at a partv, vour main thing is to just get them to jum- 
ping and ha\'ing fun or whatever. So you might go to a party, 
nobod\’ knows who vou are, but vou get on the mike anyvwiy, 
and you want them to know who vou are. \bu want them mo\’- 
ing while vou're mox'ing on the mike . . . That's mainlv what 
you’d be doing at a party (Slu 1986). 

Rapj parties provide vital performance contexts where 
yoiuig black artists have created a unique expressive form. 

Rap music originated and is idealK' performed at parties. It follows then 
that it is best examined at this local communitv Ie\’el. In the 1970s, when 
popular dance music was dominated bv disco, and clubs such as Studio 
^4 were catering to a mature clientele, restuirceful black youths uptown 
in Harlem and the South Bronx w'ere creating their own dance scene at 
home in their neighborhood parks and gymnasiums. Their hc>me-grown 
Oj dance music began to include competitive bouts of verbal dueling, where 
rappers took turns boasting about themseh’es and insulting their opponents 
while trying to win the admiration of the crowd: 

Now battling MC"s is getting me bored, 

Mv rhvme and \’our rhvme just to settle the score, 

1 begin to laugh before \'ou e\’en speak, 

^our words are inadequate to sa\- the least. 

(Lord jamar, high) 

Such recitation, chanted o\'er pre-recorded nuisic, e\ entually evoked into 
w hat i-. now’ refc*rred to as rap music. 


Hip-Hop, Subway Graffiti, and ''Breaking" 

Although rap music is part of a black American musical tradition of 
antiphonal "call-and-resf.onse" and polyrhythm patterns, it is also part of 
what has been classified as Hip Hop, a competiti\'e artistic youth subculture 
involving mostly African-Americans and Hispanics.’ Hip Hop was a lively 
tradition in the late 1970s and early 1980s encompassing three powerful 
expressive styles that grew out of the urban experience. In addition to Hip 
Hops rap music, there was a bold and colorful style of graffiti, and an 
athletic virtuoso dance called "breaking." Each of these genres is a separate 
phenomenon with its own history and legendary heroes, (See George, 
Banes, Flinker, & Romanowski 1985; loop 1984; and Castleman 1984 for 
comprehensive histories of Hip Hop traditions.) Thev were pulled together 
under one rubric because they grew out of similar artistic and social im- 
pulses, Throughout Hip Hop tradition was the spirit of upholding the 
honor of 01*165 name through competitive performances. Characteristic of 
all three genres was the artists' urge to establish strong personal and group 
identities by playfully recasting popular culture images, such as cartoon 
characters and ad\-ertising jingles, for their own creative purposes. 

The most controversial element of hiip Hop was graffiti. Regardless 
of how much it was appreciated by some, \'ew York City's Mavor Ed Koch 
considered it vandalism and launched a full fledged war against the 
"writers." (See Castleman 1984 for an extensive chronological list of articles 
covering New York City's "war on graffiti.") As urban youths struggled for 
personal recognition, the graffiti writers who had previouslv used simple 
black Magic Marker, developed a rich and elaborate artistic stvle of spray 
painting whole subway cars, and sometimes entire trains, with cartoon- 
inspired images and imaginative lettering so complex that those outside 
the culture could not read it. The artistic impulse was a combination of 
"getting up" (getting your name up on the trains and walls) and "going 
all-city" (having your name appear on all subway lines and in everv 
borough). Hip Hop graffiti writers were motivated bv the urban street tradi- 
tion of marking and maintaining one's turf. But this particular graffiti style 
also developed in a spirit of creativity and artistic perfection. 

While groups of teenage males were painting the town, "getting up" 
their emblems of identity, other "crews" as thev liked to call themselves, 
were "getting down," some of them li^'^rally getting down on the ground, 
spinning, gyrating and contortin leir bodies to the blaring sounds of 
cassette tapes blasting out of overs, d portable tape plavers. Reminiscent 
of street corner tap dancers in the early decades of the 2()th centurv, the 
late 1970s break dancers took turns challenging each other to "top" their 
latest move.s. The fact that this fast paced acrobatic style of dancing resembl- 
ed fighting was no accident. As the boys took turns showing off and mak- 
ing a name for themselves and their crews, the intensitv sometime> 
escalated into actual fights. African-American and fiispanic youths were 
somewhat etjuallv matched in break dance and graffiti "stvle wans" but 
the former dominated the stvle of the music. 

The Development of Rap Music at "Dollar Parties" in Harlem 

Today, as rap music performers move solidly into the mainstream 
recording industry, references to parties remain as one of the central im- 
ages. "You caiVt re-create it on records," recording artist Ice-T (1983) said, 
"the only thing to do is you just have to experience the club." The extent 
to which the performers actually participate in such community-based 
enterprises is not immediately apparent, as rap recordings, concerts, films 
and television appearances serve to separate the artists from the direct rela- 
tionship with their audiences. And yet, community-based dance parties 
continue to flourish. In such settings, rap music presents an excellent case 
for exploring some vital connections between mass and vernacular culture. 

During Spring 1986, my colleague Philemon VVakashe and I met Crash 
Crew's DJ "Darryl-Cee" Calloway, who invited us to attend a party at the 
YM.C.A. on West 135th Street in Harlem. Calloway's invitation opened 
up a dimension of rap music that we had not anticipated — the party as 
rap music's "natural" crossroads of vernacular and commercial concerns. 
This environment provided an opportunity to obser\^e the regular interplay 
of distinct, but interdependent aesthetic economies of rap music and the 
unitN' between context and performance. Kno^vn locally as "dollar parties," 
thev are the adolescent version of a long-standing African-American tradi- 
tion of creating alternative entertainment spots (such as juke joints) — a 
trend sustained by a variety of adverse social and economic conditions and 
aesthetic preferences not usuallv met by major commercial producers. 

The first "dollar party" Calloway invited us to attend was one of a long 
succession of events produced by his associates, known to us only by their 
first names, Mike and Dave. They have been involved in presenting rap 
music since the mid-1970s when they teamed up with neighborhood D]s 
who were already producing ad hoc street parties in a small park behind 
the Lincoln Houses, a project on Last 135th Street. Unfortunately, artists 
were sometimes exploited bv enterprising local drug dealers. Interested 
in drawing crowds of potential customers, thev paid DJs a nominal fee to 
set up in their territories. Drug business goes hand and hand with violent 
competition for territory which runs counter to the Hip Hop culture's 
creative impulse and artistic competitiveness. Mike and Dave carried the 
creative momentum of Lincoln Houses Hip Hop parties indoors, away from 
the business of drugs and the danger of street violence, and into the realm 
of semi-commercial community entertainment. In addition to their modest 
fees, D]s also made money by selling cassette recordings of their unique 
performances. Unlike graffiti and breaking, rap music has always been pro- 
duced in a context of entertainment for money, albeit a subculture economy. 
At that time, the sounds they produced were unlike an\^thing sold in stores. 
And as was the case with graffiti artists and breakers, a competitive spirit 
drove talented DJs to try to achieve artistic heights with only the simplest 


The skilled Hip Hop DJ makes "improvements" on com- 
mercial recordings by "mixing," "cutting," "scratching," 
and "backspinning." 

For Hip Hop DJs the primary musical instruments are the "wheels of 
steel " record turntables that quick-witted stylists manipulate with such sav- 
vy, precision and power-packed speed that they challenge listeners to detect 
what is actually being played - Rather than playing a record from begin- 
ning to end, Hip Hop DJs "mix," "cut," "scratch " and "backspin" small 
parts of records by working two or more turntables alternately, or 
simultaneously. Such techniques transform the original works to create new 
rhythmic and lyrical compositions. "Mixing" records is done by fading one 
record into, or out of, another with the use of volume control or an inex- 
pensive machine called a mixer. "Cutting" is accomplished by lifting the 
tone arm of the turntable and repeatedly placing the stylus precisely in 
a specific groove to repeat syllables or beats which will interact with the 
music from the other turntable as it is converted through the mixer. One 
cut is often repeated numerous times creating a sc'iund similar ki that of 
a skipping record. The difference is that in rap music, DJs control the selec- 
tions, creating rhythmic and textual nuances unintended by the original 
recording artists. Beats are also produced by "scratching" records. Rhythmic 
scratching is done by moving the platen and record back and forth under 
the needle. In contrast to scratching, "backspinning" requires extremely 
light ‘hands and extraordinary knowledge of the record and equipment. 
To backspin a record the DJ delicately rotates the record back (as short as 
one rotation or less) and as he releases the cut to be amplified through 
the system he quickly backspins a record on another turntable. By the time 
the cut is played on one turntable he is ready to repeat the previous cut 
— moving back and forth alternating his attention between the two without 
modulating the output between them on his mixer. Backspins as short as 
one rotation take incredible skill, as DJs rival each other to demonstrate 
their speed and dexterity at working the "wheels of steel." Utilizing small 
computers that simulate drumming, DJs expanded their repertoire by ad- 
ding original rhythmic patterns they preset on the machine. The DJs work 
is referred to as "improvements" on the original commercial recordings. 
They admire each others' compositions for their complexity and smooth 
transitions. A Hip Hop DJ is not an invisible person in a remote sound 
booth who antMwmoLisly changes records. On the contrary, he places 
himself in the foreground because he considers himself a musician. 

1 5 .• 


Live Hip Hop DJ music is not well-suited for the street corner venue 
in which it initially developed: equipment and record collections are bulky 
and performances require electricity. The ultimate in portability, however, 
is the "human beat box," an extraordinary technique whereby artists create 
a rhythm improvising on variations of the body's resonating possibilities.^ 
The Human Beat Box (Darren Robinson of the Fat Boys) "earned his name 
because he uses an unusual repertoire of bumps, gurgles, grunts and 
backward breathing to replace the percussive equipment he (originally) 
could not afford" (Mandel 1986: 6). As a rule, human beat box performers 
synthesize hambone routines (polymetric clapping, slapping, and pound- 
ing the body) and vocal techniques whereby the artist employs articulate 
breath control combined with lip smacking, popping, and tongue clicking 
to emulate electronic music. The human beat box is not without precedent; 
body percussion is a long-standing African-American musical technique, 
while the mimicry of musical instruments with the human voice dates back 
at least as far as the jubilee/jazz quartets of the 1920s and '30s. 

The "human beat box" is an extraordinary African- 
American innovation. 

To really rock a party requires a DJ. The fundamental problem of find- 
ing an electrical outlet to power these unofficial parties in playgrounds and 
parks was solved by paying a neighbor ten or fifteen dollars to run an ex- 
tension cord from an apartment window, or more often, resourceful DJs 
would illegally tap into a nearby city light pole. It was not long before local 
entrepreneurs Mike and Dave recognized the economic potential of these 
events and opened up their own Hip Mop "dollar parlies." The favored 
locations w'ere, and still are, gymnasiu.ns at Intermediate School 201, St. 
Mark's School, and the Y.M.C.A., all within a few blocks of each other. 
Since the beginning, Mike and Dave's events have been advertised only 
by w'ord of mouth and by fliers distributed at the close of the previous e\'ent, 
and also to teens attending area schools. The flier tells them everything 
they need to know. Its bold graphic style, patterned on Hip Hop graffiti, 
says instantly what kind of an event to expect. 

As advertised, there are always at least two well-known DJs hired for 
the duration of the evening. The regulars have included recording artists 
"Darrvl-Cee" Calloway of Crash Crew and DJ Barry-Bee of The Get Fresh 
Crew. Other local performers who experience some success as recording 
artists are D] Grandmaster Flash of The Furious Five, Kool Moe-Dee, Grand 
Wizard Theodore, and Ronnie-Gee. In a recent television interview, Kool 
Moe-Dee (1988) said, "The way it works is, it's got to be hot in the streets 
first, then you force radio on it." By playing local parties artists can introduce 
new' material and stay in contact with what their audiences like. 


1 Cli 

At informal parties there is no limit to subject matter for rap lyrics, but 
one theme that has remained constant, even in popular recordings, is the 
party motif. Some early rap records, Sugar Hill Gangs "8th Wonder" (Sugar 
Hill Records 1980) md Starski's "Starski Live at Disco Fever" (Fever Records 
1983), attempted to simulate the interactive nature of these events where 
MCs work their audience to respond to their lines. As black traditional 
preachers ask their congregations for an "Amen," Hip Hop MCs appeal 
to the dancers, tf Give me a HO!" The teens on the dance floor respond 
in kind with a lOwu, sustained, "HO-O-O-O-O-O-O-O-O!!!!!," chanted as 
they throw their heads back in thorough enjoyment while they continue 
dancing, never missing a beat. KISS FM's radio DJ "Red Alert" playfully 
taunted the crowd one night at the "Y" when he chanted a well-known 
phrase, the title of Cut-Master-D.C.'s, "Brooklyn's in the House" (Zakia 
Records 1985). Undaunted, the Harlem crowd answered with, "No, Up- 
town, Uptown!" Although Harlem's neighborhoods are split into rival gang 
territories, all are temporarily united on the dance-floor by their shared 
animosity toward their Brooklyn counterparts. Today's record producers 
do not care about simulating parties, but rap lyrics continue to stress the 
significance of parties where rap music is still created live and enjoyed in 
the spirit of interactive dynamics. 

MCs also perform long rhymed narratives, working their fast, power- 
packed lines within and against the DJ's patterns adding to an already com- 
plex assortment of rhythms. Sometimes working in a group (formerly called 
"crew," now "posse"), MCs create raps in which they finish each others' 
lines, chime in and underscore one another, or simulate a conversation. 
The work has an quality, but few MCs create substantial 
new material while they are performing. (See Abrahams 1970, 1970a; Davis 
1985; Smitherman 1977 on black oral traditions.) Most MCs work out their 
rhvmes on paper. Some use a dictionary and thesaurus to expand their 
repertoire, hopefully impressing their audience and their competition with 
their extensive vocabulary. 

My name is Jamar, I'm the lord of lords 

And I know you'd pay dearly for my vocal cords 

My inferno of rhymes burn a sucker to the center 

They steadily advance while your rhymes hinder 

Technologically sound 

Mv words are profound (Lord Jamar 1986) 

There are no rules about rhyme scheme or line length, although most raps 
are composed of rhyming couplets. Complex language and rhythm pat- 
terns are important criteria in community evaluation, but above all, per- 
formance style is most important. "Like L. L. (Cool J], his thing is like 
something coming out there strong. More or less like Martin Luther King 
will come out there and just project himself" (Slu 1986). It is no accident 

1 R - 


that 51u uses "'strong"' to characterize good black performance, as it is an 
aesthetic principle universally admired in African and African-American 
art and performance (Thompson 1974: 5-10). Strong connotes beauty alive 
with youth, firmness, vitality, and power. The strength of performance is 
confirmed on the dance floor. 

At "dollar parties" the dominant activity is social dancing. The DJs' 
and MCs' ability to effectively interact with the people on the dance floor 
sets the tone and mood for the event. In 1986, the general pattern at Mike 
and Dave's dollar parties was that males danced with males and females 
danced with females. The dancing, true to all Hip Hop traditions, was in 
the form of challenge. Many small circles formed on the floor as the 
observers — all potential performers themselves — watched and cheered 
the techniques of the two dancers "going for it" in the center of each circle. 

CURRY: It's like ring play where 1 grew up in the Bahamas. In 
other words, someone gets in a circle, there's music, the kids 
are clapping (snaps his fingers) and someone is in the ring . . . 

CALLOWAY: (Chimes in) i did that when I was small, in 
kindergarten . . . 

CURR^': (While still snapping his fingers) And, you know, that's 
the same kind of feel of what it is at the "Y" when someone 
gets in and dances. (Ca!lmva\' & Currv 1986) 

Recent Changes 

In 1986 I obser\'ed dancers exchanged gestures of challenge which in- 
creased in difficulty and intensity as the dancing proceeded yet the mood 
remained congenial.^ Overt sexual motifs, emblems of "one-upmanship" 
and contest once at the heart of Hip Hop dance styles, have been transform- 
ed. Today, patrons of Mike and Dave's parties favor couple dancing. Dancers 
have modified the o\'ert sexual gestures formerly used to taunt a competitor 
and use them to advance their status in courtship relationships. 

The music, too, is in a state of transformation. Before rap music's wide 
commercial distribution, Djs were the attraction. Early records (12-inch 
singles) reserved the B-side to record the "instrumental" track inviting con- 
sumers to re-mix the record at home, or to compose new raps to the Dj's 
rhythms. As recording studio technologies did not require a Dj, per se, 
the focus shifted away from the DJ and toward the MC, making the "rap- 
per" the featured artist. As rap music became a viable commercial com- 
modity performance modes shifted. For example, the element of contest 
— once performed before live witnesses who evaluated an MCs success 
on the spot — was now mediated bv' record producers who exploited this 
tradition for their own purposes. The plethora til "answer records" attests 
to this."^ 

Since dollar parties are precariously balanced between commercial and 



vernacular concerns, the recent success of rap music recordings has effected 
the aesthetic economy of the party context in which it w'as generated. Kids 
on the dance-floor used to crowd around the DJ table trying to learn the 
master's techniques. But their aspirations have shifted as they rap along 
with the records they listen to at home and memorize. Commodification 
has created its own sense of wholeness, and audiences now demand D]s 
play some records from beginning to end without cutting and scratching. 
But there are changes in performances at Mike and Daves dollar parties 
that may indicate a reassertion of the importance of the party D], whose 
artistic potential has been suppressed in the recordings. The latest develop- 
ment in live performance is a new method "Darryl-Cee" calls "throw-ins." 
A "throw-in" is a technique where the D] and MC work together, each in 
their distinct medium, to complete each others lines. 

I have one that's a favorite with the kids, I ahwiys use this one 
with the kids, I would never use this at a regular club. But the 
kids like stuff that's disgusting. You know Biz-Markie's "Pickin 
Boogers" (Prism Records 1987)? My MC would say, "We saw 
that girl over there and she was . . ." Then I come in at just 
the right time with the cut from the record where Biz-Markie 
says, "Pickin' boogers" and I'll cut it in {^\’cr and over again: 
"Pickin' boogers, pickin' boogers." They go crazy o\'er that one. 
(Calloway 1988) 

"Throw-ins" call atention to the collaboration between D] and MC in a way 
that is difficult to translate to records because it depends on the live con- 
text for its enjovment. 

The study of dollar parlies in I larlem locates rap music in a aunmuni- 
ty context where its transformations are readily examined within a short 
temporal frame. Throughout New York's black neighborhoods there are 
other parties like Mike and Dave's. In fact, this phenomenon is not limited 
to New York. A recent Village Voice article reports that in response to the 
mass marketing of rap on radio and record, local rap scenes are nurturing 
regional variations thremghout the United States (George 1988: 32-33). For 
example, similar community-based rap parties, with a Pacific Northwest 
flavor, have been documented in Eugene, Oregon (Slovenz 1985). Whether 
they are called dollar parties, flier parties, or rent parties, these events pro- 
vide vital performance contexts where ytmng black artists, reappropriating 
and i' iprovising with the products of mass culture, have created a unique 
expressive form at the crossrc)ads of commercial and vernacular production. 




I om grealh indcbtod to the wp musK artists who assisted my rescMrch by graaously including mo 

and nyv coHoaguo Philemon \Vakashe in their lively parties and interview sessinns. 

1 "At tirst it wasn't retilly called anything. I iip I lop. They )ust t(tok that nanw from D) Hollywood 
who used to be a D].MC at the Apollo. He would say, 'llip, hop, da hip .!a hop, da hip hop, 
hip da hop like that kind of thing" (Calloway 1988). 

2 To prevent others from "biting" (stealing) their beats, Djs take great care to disguise their record 
labels by steaming them off or blacking them out. 

X The Original Human Beat Bov. Get Fresh Crew's Uoug I:. Fresh and the Fat Boys have popu- 
larized this technique with their recordings. See ’‘Sugj;ested Listening." 

4. While 1 was standing on the sideline.s, near the Dl table, a young boy danced up close to me 
and a small group of kids formed a circle aiotind us. His mo\emoni‘« beckoned me to compete 
with hini. 1 felt he was trying to embarrass me but I was willing to play along. Hach move he 
made 1 tried to repeat and add a taunting gesture. This continued until his moves were more 
owrtly sevual. at which point f laughed, and stepped out (»f the circle acknowledging defeat. 
Those who formed the circle laughed along with me; it was fun, truly performed in a hospitable 
'•pirit. Hiter, when I spoke with some of the girls who formed the circle. thc\‘ said that they thought 
1 might have Ivon an agent ora producer and they wanted mo to notice theni. At that time, breakers 
were still getting ctmimercia! work. 

3 Answer rect^rds are a ecmimercial phentmienon m the rap music husmess wherohy recording 
artists battle each other through records One artist responds to the other in much the same spirit 
that they would on stage. .Mthough these havc‘ been a popular adaptation of rap battles, big name 
rappers are pulling out of the competition . They teel that the young rappers coming up are using 
answer records to htkh a free ndo on the coat tails of the stars. Without paying their dues at 
neighborhood parties and small clubs, unknow ns are getting on the radio by posing challenges 
to the hig names m rap. However, it stimetme like L.L. Cool [ answers an unkniiwn artist, the 
battle IS on with both artists selling records. R»r a discusion of one series of answer records, see 
lones 1988. M-X7 

RFFPRi'N't I S urm 

Abrahams, Roger O 

|'<~o Ile-ep Hown in the jimglr \egro \arramr lolkltnv trtim llu- Mwel-' nf niilad(‘lphia. First 
Revised F'dition. Chicago. .Aid me Publishing Companv 
1970a l\>silively Black F.nglowjiod L lifts. \.). Prentice-I lall 

1987 Pickin' Boogers [Vrsm Reco/ds. 

Blacks tar 

1984 Re u'idrd III perlnmiaiu e at pai l\ ’ in;eiH‘ Ou-gon is \ii>;u'*l 
C allowav. I >arryl C ee" 

1988 Interview with author. New >ork k'lty, 7 April 
Callowav. "Darrvl-C ee " and "lay-c ee " Currv 

1986 Interview with authtir New V»rk C itv. 8 .April 
C astleman, Craig 

1984 Cletting Lp. Subvvoy (irattiti in New Cambridge, .M.A .Mil Press, 

C ut master- n.C. 

1983 BrookKn's m the Htsuse. 7akia Kecurds 
Davis, Gerald 

1983 1 C'lOt the Word in Me and I Can ^ing it ^ou Know .A Studv oi the IVrturmt d African- 
American Sermon. [Philadelphia. Lnnersilv of I’ennsvivania Press, 

Fuller. Dami»nd 

1984 Interview with author Fugene, C">regon. H .Mav 
Cioorge. Nelson. Salh Banes. Susan Flinker 6i. Paltv Romanowski 

1985 Fresh llip Hop Don't stop Ni‘w ^ork Sarah Ui/in Books*rgo Nehon 

1988 NalionAVide America Raps Back \ illage Voue I9 lanuarv. 32- 

1983 Interview reuordial on videotape rect>rded in I os Angeles C rv'dils unkntivMi 
join's, l.isa 

1988 [\i//v .Ain't Free V'lllage voue 19 lanuarv. 34-37. 

Kool Moe-Dee 

1988 Interview on \'ideo Soul Bkuk I ntertainmenl lelev ision Broadcast II .April 
li>rd lamar 

I98h Interview \vithau(ln»r Nv'vv "^ork C itv. |9 April 


Man dell, Jonathan 

1980 Tho Three Stooges ol l^ip- Or. the Sivial Signiticance of the Fat Bovs Pailv News Magazine. 
? (aniuirv. 4-7ti. 

Sloven/, Madeline 

Nrt? You Knou it'^ Breaktn’: Toward an .\naivsis of Break Darning and I\ap Musu in Bugene, 
Oregon. Unpublished M.A. ThO'.is. Univorsit\ ot Oregon, 

Sugar iiill Gang 

1V80 8th Wonder. Sugar Mill Records. 


NSh Interview with author. N'ew Virk Citv, ^ April 
. niitherman. C'.ene\a 

1977 Talkm and Testit \’in’ The Uinguage i>t Black .Ainerua Bi»ston Moiighton Mittlin 

983 Starski I i\e at Disco Fc\er Fe\er Re^.ords 
Tln*nips<>n, Kt>bert Farris 

^‘74 .African Art in Motion. Berkele\ ; L'nuersitv ot C alitornia Press 
Rtrp Da\id 

1^84 The Rap .Attack .Atruan |i\e to \‘ew V>rk Hip Mop. Boston South I nd Press 



b>87 Pickin B<*ogers I’rism Recr>rds. 
tTitm.isier-D.C . 

W8s BrturkKns in the Mouse /akia Recoids 
Doug F Fresh C*et Fresh C rew 
1988 1 he tireatest Pntertainer Realitv Kei ords 

[ at Boys 

1984 Ct>ming Ikuk Hard \i;am bn Pan .Apple 
^ugar Mill Gang 

1980 8th Wonder Sugar Mill Records 

198"^ Starski Li\e at Disi..) !i.-\er Fe\i’r Records 





Vol. XIV, Nos. 3-4, 1988 

Anglo-American Folksong Collecting 
and Singing Traditions in Rural New York State 


The eastern and southern sections of upstate New York were settled 
during the 17th and 18th centuries primarily by British Isles immigrants 
and Anglo-Americans from New England who came to New York seeking 
land and opportunity. Once here, they intermarried with descendants of 
Dutch, ScoK Irish, German and later Irish immigrants to form a popula- 
tion with a similar ethnic and cultural background to that found throughout 
the Appalachian mountain chain. Among the cultural treasures brought 
and preserved by these early New \brkers and their descendants was a 
rich tradition of songs and ballads. 

Ballads are folk songs differentiated from lyric songs by their story- 
telling function. Anglo-American ballads are usually related from a third- 
person point of view; the narrati\'e frec|uently begins in the middle of the 
tale and moves swiftly to a dramatic conclusion. The Anglo-American ballad 
is related tc^ a much wider pan-European ballad tradition of great antiqui- 
ty, but documentation before the late Middle Ages remains sketchy. Other 
ballads were developed more recently, either in the British Isles or in North 
America. Examples ot older ballads (e.g. "Sir John Randall, or Gypsy 
Davy"), as well as newer ballads composed in North America (e.g. "jam 
at Ge. ry's Rock" or "Jack Haggerty"), have been collected in New York and 
many continue to be sung todav. Ballads, like other forms of folk music, 
are written bv individuals, but the composers^ identities are usually quickly 
forgotten as their songs are adopted and reshaped by other members of 
their communities. 

Ballads attracted the attention c')f scholars as early as the Renaissance, 
and during the 18th and 19th centuries, a ctmeerted effort was made by 
individuals to collect and document them. In the United States, a young 
Boston-born Harvard professor named Francis James Child (1825-1896) 
undertook a life-long project to document and catalogue all known Anglo- 
Celtic ballads. In his landmark publication. The English ami Scottish Popular 
Ballads (1882), Child presents numerous versions or "variants" of 305 
ballads,! child's work was based excluGivelv on writ^en texts rather than 
on his own field collecting. 1 !e culled texts both from earlier manuscript 



collections and from his voluminous correspondence with British and 
American scholars. A number of Child's correspondents sent him materials 
collected in New York State: including W.W. Newell, a folklorist best known 
for his studies of American children's games, and Dr. Huntington, 
Methodist Bishop of Central New York, and various amateur collectors 
throughout the state (see, for example. Child 1882, IV: 72, ^^200K). It should 
be noted that Child was more interested in ballads as texts than as living 
folklore; he rarely included the tunes to which they were sung, nor did 
he discuss performers or performance practices.. This precedent was follow- 
ed by other American collectors in the early 20th century, who followed 
Child's lead in their concern with the study of ballad texts: including Henry 
M. Belden in Missouri, Louise Pound in Nebraska, \V. Roy MacKenzie in 
Nkwa Scotia, and Frank C. Brown in North Carol ina.- But it was the field 
collections of English scholars Cecil Sharp and Maude Karpeles in small 
Anglo-American communities in the southern Appalachians during 
1916-1918 that captured the public's attention? Although many of the same 
Child and broadside ballads they recorded in the southern mountains 
could also be found throughout the Northeast and Middle West, their field 
work led members of the public to mistakenly associate balladry traditions 
only with the southern Appalachian region. 

Early field work led to the notion that balladry was uni- 
quely southern Appalachian. The rich traditions of New 
York State were neglected. 

In addition to ''Child ballads," broiuisidc baihuis were also popular in 
New York State. This term is used to describe composed narrative ballads 
that flourished in 17th and 18th century Britain and later in America. Often 
written by songwriters tif varying talents, and set to well-known tunes, 
these versifications tif ItKal and naticmal new's were printed on single sheets 
of paper (i.e. broadsides) and sold to the public for a nominal fee. They 
tended towards the sensational — replete with accounts of murders, 
outlaws, battles and tragedies, tiften rendered in doggerel. Because of their 
relatively recent origin and their evtilution from a single printed source, 
broadside ballads texts have remained fairly stable compared with those 
of the Child ballads;* Imptirtant schtilarlv wtirk on American broadside 
ballads was done by Tristam P. Coffin in The British Traditional Ballad in North 
Anicriia (I9a0), and G. Malcolm Laws in Native American Balladn/ (1930) and 
American Balladn/ from British Broadsides (1957).'* 

In addition to Child and broadside ballads. nt)n-narrative or "lyric" 
songs were also popular in Anglo-American ctimmunities. Still later, com- 
ic songs, ptitriotic songs, vaudeville and theatre songs, and sentimental 
"heart" songs entered the repertoire of traditional singers. 




New York State Collections 

That old saying that folklore occurs primarily where folklorists spend 
their spare time is applicable to a discussion of New York State's traditional 
ballads. Although some fine early collections of New York materials were 
undertaken, the publication of Empire State materials, especially prior to 
the 1970s, was sparse enough to support Simon Bronner's (1977) assertions 
that the State "has not received the folk cultural appreciation reserved for 
New England [and] . . . remains inadequately represented in folklore col- 

The first New York State ballad collections were private songsters, per- 
sonal collections of song texts written down by one person or a succession 
of people within one family. Five such manuscript collections from New 
York State have been published: A Pioneer Songster (Cutting 1952), containing 
texts compiled between 1841 and 1856 by the Stevens-Douglass famil\ in 
Wyoming Countv; The Civil War Songster of a Monroe County Partner, (Gravelle 
1971), compiled by James Polk Edmunds between 1863 and 1865; A Schohane 
County Songster (McNeil 1969), based on a small chapbook kept b>- Ida 
Finkeil of Argusville from 1879-1833; A Delanson Manuscript of Songs, (Oster 
1952), found in a Delanson antique shop; and The Curtis Collection of Songs 
(Thompson 1953), which includes both traditional and popular material 
from after the Civil War. These collections provide a look at the repertoire 
sung by traditional musicians in rural New York before 1900, and offer a 
clue to the songs popular with the parents and grandparents of todays 
older traditional singers. 

While Cecil Sharp and Maude Karpeles were gleaning songs from the 
Appalachians, Emelyn Elizabeth Gardner was beginning one of the earliest 
studies of New York State's traditions. Rtlklore from the Schoharie Hills (1937), 
based on field work she conducted between 1912 and 1914, contains the 
music and texts to twenty-nine songs, including Child and broadside 
ballads, lullabies and children's songs. 

Thirty years later, Harold Thompson's students from Albany Teachers' 
College collected ballads and verbal lore from their families and neighbors. 
Thompson's book. Body, Boots and Britches (1940), which contains a large 
number of ballads and songs, was based on his students' field research, 
and is still the best known collection of New York folklore. 

In 1944, Edith Cutting, one of Thompson's star pupils, published Lore 
of an Adirondack County, a collection of material from her native Essex County 
which included tw'enty-one Anglo-American ballads and five local songs. 
During the following decades, Cutting was a regular contributor to N:u’ 
York Folklore Quartcrh/ — the ancestor e^ the present journal — and her col- 
lected materials as well as her exceptional documentation of the contexts 
in which traditional music was performed and their function in rural com- 
munities, make her work particularly significant. Two of Cutting's song 
collections were published in .N'l'U’ York Folklore Quarterly: "Peter Parrott and 
His Songs," (1947), which documents the repertoire of a Franco-American 


Lawrence Older (1912-1982) was an important woods singer, raconteur, and fid- 
dler. He was descended from eighteenth century English immigrants to northern 
Saratoga County. His repertoire includes a number of Child ballads and many 
American ballads catalogued by Laws. Older was recorded by Folk Legacy Records. 
He appeared, as did Sara Cleivland, at the National Folklife Festival and at the 
Smithsonian Festival of American Folklife. Photo courtesy of George and Vaughn 

singer from Redford, Clinton County; and ''Farmers' Songs/' a section in 
her important special edition on "New York State Farm Lore" (1951). 

From 1941 to 1970, Marjorie Lansing Porter assiduously colle ed folklore 
in the central and southern Adirondack Mountains. She was especially in- 
terested in ballad singers. Cassette recordings of her original soundscriber 
discs are available for study at The Porter Collection of Adirondack Rilklore 
in the Special Collections. Feinburg Library of SUNY/Plattsburg.'' Although 
Porter s notable collection sadly remains unpublished, her informants sang 
for other collectors whose v\'orks are more easily available; Lilv Stokes 
Delorme sang for folklorist Helen Hartness Flanders; "Yankee" John 
Galusha for Anne and Frank Warner; and Lawrence Older for Sandy Paton. 
While most other collectors concentrated on the most active, or the most 
outgoing, singers within a family. Porter was unique for her time in her 
attempt to record all the singers within a single family. This allowed her 
to make hypotheses about family repertoire and about the ae.sthctic choices 
of individual singers. (See Porter 1953.) 

The 1950s and '60s produced a number of collector/performers who 
were interested in recording and presenting material from what was in- 
creasingly a declining tradition. Their work has often served to renew in- 
terest in traditional Anglo-American songs within rural communities. For 
example, folklorist Ellen Steckert collected from and performed with singers 
from Catskill lumber camps; George Ward collected and presented the 



ballads, songs and tales of Adirondack communities; Pete Seeger worked 
with and presented local songmakers from the Catskills and the Adiron- 
dacks; Margaret MacArthur collected and performed songs from families 
who were involved in Helen Hartness Flanders' earlier research; Kenneth 
Goldstein documented the repertoire of traditional singer Sara Cleveland 
and issued well-annotated recordings of her performances. 

In recent years, an increasing amount of research has been done on 
New York's traditional music. In the 1970s, Robert Bethke collected songs 
and stories of St. Lawrence County woodsmen. Published as Aiirondack 
Voices: Woodswen aud Woods Lne (1981), the work contains a u'ealth of anec- 
dotal, biographical and contextual materials relating to the area's traditional 
singers and their songs. Bethke's publication includes the texts and music 
for twenty-four ballads. 

Two "lifework collections" were published in the 1980s. The first of 
these, Cazden, Haufrecht & Studer's Folk Songs of the Catskills (1982) in- 
cludes 178 traditional ballads and songs collected between 1941 and 1962 
under the auspices of Camp Woodland. Of these, 9 are local variants of 
Child ballads, 37 are Liws variants, and most of the rest can be traced to 
Irish or turn--of-the-century popular sources. A few, however, are locally 
produced and commemorate local events and characters, including not a 
few skirmishes with the law. This richly annotated collection is the only 
work on New York State songs that contains a good comparative study of 
tune formation. 

A second recent retrospective, Anne Warner's Traditional American Folk 
Songs from the Frank and Atme Warner Collection (1984), makes available some 
important New York State examples collected over the space of forty years 
by the author and her husband. Following a method established by Bethke 
in Adirondack U)/a’s, the collection is organized by artist rather than by song 
content or country of origin. The Warners worked extensively with tradi- 
tional singer "Yankee" John Galusha (1859-1950) of Minerva and collected 
material from Steve Wadsworth (b. 1895) of Edinburg. The book includes 
careful musical transcriptions by Jerome Epstein. Entries are meticulously 
cross-referenced to other published and recorded materials. 

Traditional Singers and Repertories 

The number of traditional Anglo-American singers is unfortunately 
diminishing in rural upstate New York, but a number of prominent ex- 
ponents of the genre were active until quite recently. For example, Sara 
Cleveland, a native of Washington County who died in 1987, could sing 
several hundred songs she had learned from her mother, including a 
number of rare variants of Child and Laws ballads and some unusually 
complete versions of British broadside ballads.^ Other traditional singers 
recorded and documented during the 1970s and '80s included Grant Rogers, 
a Catskill songmaker; Liwrence Older (d. 1982) from Saratoga ('ounty; St. 
Lawrence County woodsmen Ted and Eddie Ashlaw; and Otsego Coun- 

Sara Creedon Cleveland (1905-1987) carried more than four hundred songs, mam/ 
of which were brought b}/ her Scots-lrish and Irish ancestors to Hartford, 
Washington Comity. She sang her mother's songs at home until — in her fifties 
— she came to the attention of Kenneth Goldstein and Sandi/ Paton, zvho recorded 
most of her extenswe repertoire. Mrs. Cleveland's variants of ancient ballads were 
usually complete. Several hnpwrtant local ballads — especially local accounts of 
Rtwolutionary War and the War of 1812 — zoere in her repertoire. She zvas knoivn 
among other singers for her performance of the complete, 72-verse "Ballad of Lake 
Chaplain." Although she ivas blinded in an auto accident in 1973, Mrs. Clei^eland 
continued to perform until her eightieth year. Photo, c. 1968, by Sandy Paton. 

ty's Ken Kane. Today, St. Lawrence County's Bill Smit?i is one of the few 
traditional singers actively performing the Anglo-American vocal repertoire. 
Given the richness of these few performers, one wonders w^hat Cecil Sharp 
might have found had he come to upstate New York before the tradition 
of ballad singing began to wane during the years following the Second 
World War. 

Based on 19th-century song collections, it seems likely that at one time 
more than half of the songs and ballads sung by the "folk" in New York 
were imported from the British Isles or evolved from 19th-century American 
popular songs. This corresponds to Gardner's earlier findings: British Isles 
and American popular songs made up a bit more than half of those she 
collected between 1912 and 1914. Forty years later, w^hen the songs of 
"Yankee" John Galusha were documented by the Warners and Mrs. Porter, 
slightly more than ten percent of the songs were of British Isles origin, while 
nearly two-thirds were of North American and pre-1900 minstrel show pro- 
venance During the 1970s and '80s, research by other New York State col- 
lectors, including George Ward, Robert Bethke, and myself, has found 
similar results. 



17 ) 

Many Nezv York State songs are fieither from British nor 
popular music origins; they are local songs set to local 

Many New York State songs are neither from British Isles nor popular 
music origins; rather, they are local songs created along traditional models 
and nearly always set to tunes in local circulation. Although these songs 
were not usually printed and sold as broadside ballads, they may be seen 
as an extension of the broadside tradition of topical songmaking.** Local 
ballads in New York follow the pattern described by folklorist Edward D. 
Ives. They are, he u-rites, ''ballads and sentimental pieces [based] on the 
imported models . . . [and] are part of the cultural landscape wherever 
traditional songs are sung" (Ives 1983: 208) For example, "The Ballad of 
Blue Mountain Lake" or "Bert LaFountain's Packard" (which a bootlegger 
from the town of Gabriel's is reported to have sung during Sunday morn- 
ing sessions at his speakeasy), remain popular because they contain local 
names and references. 

Any study of material collected after 1930 must take into account the 
influence of records, radio and early locally-produced television. In the 
1930s, radio stations in upstate New York began to broadcast programs 
featuring national touring artists such as Bradley Kincaid and Vernon 
Dalhart. Both these artists collected songs from traditional musicians, sang 
them on their programs, and distributed them in songbooks to promote 
their shows, often claiming copyrights for their own. An example is Bradley 
Kincaid's "Favorite M<iuntain Ballads and Old Time Songs" (Neu’ Ytirk: 
Southern Music Pub., 1938). Although Kincaid claimed a southern origin 
for many of his songs, he had a summer home near Stafford's Bridge in 
upstate New York. Traditional singer Dick Richards tells of visiting Kin- 
caid vvhen he was twelve or thirteen and "f-le'd [Kincaid] give me a chicken 
for every song I could sing for him that he didn't already know ... I always 
went home with a couple of chickens swinging from the handle bars of 
my bicycle."*^ During the 1940s and early 1950s, when traditional artists 
such as Richards, the Blodgett family band, and Jimmy Flamblin, appeared 
regularly on local radio programs, it became increasingly difficult to sort 
out regional traditions from more general rural influences being aired bv 
the media. It is interesting to speculate how many southern and western 
songs played over early airwaves merely overlaid or redistributed material 
already traditional in the northeast. 

The movement from home or neigh borhciod gatherings to public per- 
formance as well as the influence of radio and popular records, has en- 
couraged a compression of the texts and stories of older ballads. Very long 
narratives, which w'Cre the test of skill for the pre\'ious generation, are 



ILcft to RightI Mike Spence, West Hebron; Jim Cleveland, Brant Lake; and Col- 
leen Ckveland Thompson, Brant Lake. Mike Spence and Jime Cleveland both learned 
their songs from their mothers. Spoices mother atid Clez^eland's grandmother both 
grew up in an Irish settlement near Hartford in Washington Count:/. Mike Spence 
sings several ballads catalogued In/ Laws atul Child, and a large number of tiim- 
of-the-centun/ vaudeinlle aiid minstrel show songs. He is a iKderan of the local 
grange minstrel show circuit, which was a venue for the performance of traditional 
songs through the 1950 s. Jim Chveland and his daughter, Colleen Thompson, 
are heirs to the Chveland famih/ repertoire and singing sti/le. The:/ are performing 
here in the "Songs Mi/ Mother/ Fat her Taught Me" workshop at the Folk Arts 
Festhml at the Washington Cou)it\/ Fair, 198S. Photo by Matt Kell:/. 

usually performed today in considerably shortened v^ersions. Although 
Child and Laws ballads are performed much less frequently than they once 
were, they hav^e been replaced largely by 20th century countr)^ songs, which 
like their predecessors are narratives. The sentimental themes and values 
expressed by these more modern compositions can also be seen as a possi- 
ble extension of the earlier Anglo-American values embodied in older songs 
and ballads. 

Singer Lawrence Older remarked to me on a number of occasions that 
the woodsmen he knew sang and listened to ballads with their eyes clos- 
ed, and that ihe song sessions were a priv'ate time when tough, scrappy 
men allowed their emotions a release. The ballad, wrote VViila Muir (1965: 
197) "made a culture for t)rd inary rural pec'tple . . . exercising in this way 
a basic human gift t)f imagination which gave them much satisfaction and 


1 /.'i 


fun." Sharing family songs, some of which are variants of ballads brought 
by early Anglo-American immigrants, allows the descendants of New York's 
earliest rural settlers this same satisfaction. 

Al and Katin/ Bain, West Hebron, are area counirxj wusic stars. AI is descended 
from the original Scots-Irish settlers of West Hebron, Katin/ from the pre- 
Rei^olutionari/ settlers of West Fort A}in. The Bains have been awarded an appren- 
ticeship from the New York State Council on the Arts, Folk Arts Proi/^ram, to learn 
the son/^ repertoire of Clarence ”Dadd\/ Dick" Richards of Corinth. Richards, who 
is probahli/ the most important living source of regional sot\^ traditions, learned 
his music from both of his parents and from lo^i^ers working on the Sacanda^a 
RcseriKnr. Monthh/ meetings of or^atiizations such as the Al Bain Fan Club are 
the present-da\/ context for the sharini^ of famih/ soni^s. Photo b\j Matt Kell}/, 1987. 

1 71 





1. Dr«j\vingon <) plan do\ cloped by Svond Grundvig in OW Popular Halliui< of Ikuinark (1853), Child 
arranged ballads bv their stories or "tale types," and then assigned each ballad store a number. 
This was done since it is more common than not lor a ballad to exist in numerous "variants." 
some more complete than others, but often bearing widely different texts and titles and sung 
to ctmipletely different tunes than the other \ ariantsof the same ballad. Today, scholars working 
with Anglo-American ballads frequently use Child's cataloging numbers when referring to a ballad 
— for example, the well known ballad "Gypsy Liddie" would simply be referred to as "Child «2tXl” 

2. See Henr)' M. Belden, Sallaihaml Sa/i ys G>//iV/cd inf the Missoun F()/A-L<>rc S(Vu*ti/. Columbia. MO.: 
Universitv of Missouri Studie.s, XV, 1940; reprinted 1955. Belden. A Partial U>t of Sony‘Hallati> atul 
Other Popular Poet nt Knoiou m 4\U<>oun. Columbia, MO., 1907. Umise Pound. Fi/A-Siiny .VchmsArt 
and the Central IVcsf. Lincoln, Neb : Academy of Science Publications, IX, 3 1914, W. Koy MacKen- 
/le. BalUhU ami Sea Sony> Inmi \Wa Siotui. Cambridge, MA, 1928. The Prank C. Ihoien Colleetiou 
ot \orlh Carolina Posklore. Newman Ivey While, Paul F. Baum, et. al., ed. Durham. N.C.: Duke* 
University Press. 1954. Gavin Greig, K’/A-Seny 2 vols. Peterhead. 1914. Gavin Greig 
and Alcvmder Keith. Li>t Uaiv> of Tnuiifiona! Baihuh ami Ballad Air<. Aberdeen. 1925; Cecil j Sharp, 
hoik Son\*> of i.n^land. 5vols. I9ll8-|912. Cecil J, Sharp and Kcv. Charles L. Marson. hoik Stniys from 
Stuner^et. 5 ser. D>ndon and New Vuk, 1904-19IW; 1 i.H.D. 1 lamm<md. Folk Senys freni /)ers(*/, U>n- 
don; N\<vello. 1908. Palph Vaughan Williams. Polk Siniys 'rum//ic I'.a^teni Counite". i^imdon No\ ello, 

.3. See Cecil |. Sharp, Lny/is/z foM-S.'nys from the Southertf Arvauhliiaii'- (1925). Maude Karpeles ed 
2 \x)ls. London; CHtord Unnersity Press, 1932 

4. For exaniple, in the 1960s. traditional singer Uiwrence Older trom Saratc)ga County recorded a 
\ersk)n t)i the broadside ballad "Mv Bonnv Black Bess" that was almost identical to the 18th i rn- 
turv version printed in England, now in the collection of the English Dance and Song Societ\ 

5 The latter author establishcxl a classification system similar to C hild's that is now used for American 
ballads. The pre\‘iously cited 'My Bimnie Black Bess," for example, is referred tv> as »1J1, 

8 Porter's material on traditional singer "Yankee " loim Gahisha is m the prnate i oiled ion of Porter's 
friend and protegee Uv Knight 

r r.vimples of Cie\ eland's singing are found on ' Ballads and ‘songs ot the Upper Hudson Ri\er 
\’allev. bara Cleveland ot Brant Like. New 3ork.' (h)lk Legaev) Notes bv Kenneth Cjiildstein. 

^ I am indebted to Simon Bronner an*' u> .\nne and \«irm A oheii tor this svsti rn ot repertmre 

‘^1. K>r an in-depth decusMon see hes 1983. Saw\er l^sq Sluder 1971. and King 19=^=^ 

10 Interview with Dick Kichards. .April 198S, jt the home ot ,\l and Kath\' Bam. West Hebron. New 

Much of the material colledi.*d on New 3ork balladrv and ballad singers remains unpublished. The 

following archnes are particularlv rich in Empire State materials. 

•Archive ot Udksong U.S Libra rv ot C<mgress. Washington. IK The lllder. Halpert Warner and 
C'le\ eland eolleetions an.* deposited hc're. and a hibliographv ot N'c*w 3i»rk maU rials is a\ailable 
upon request. 

Ijouis hmes and Harold Thiimpson Archives ot New 3ork State Eolklore. (Special Collections) New 
York State Historical Association Lihrarv. Cooperstow n, \ 3 Contains field work undertaken 
by Students m lones' and Thompson's classes Open bv appointment. 

New 3ork State Folklife Archive. New' 3ork State Historical Association Librarv. Coiiperstown. N.3. 
Contains the w'ork of students in tlie now defunct Cooperstown CKaduate IVogram in 
.American F-olklife Sound recordings of all \3S material deposited in the l.ibrar\ ot Con- 
gress before 1975 are available here Tlie Sam (.skin collection also c *'* • • 'me \3'S materials. 

C^pen bv appointment 

New3v*rk State Broadside Collection. Library of the Stati'of New \nk. (Special C ollect ions) Alban\-, 
N.3. Broadside ballads Archival assistance available bv appointment. 

Mar|oric Lmsing Porter Collection of North Country Rilklore Slate Universitv ol New 3t>rk Platts- 
burg, Ivmburg l.ibrarx. i8ipeual C ollections) Plattsburg. ,N3 A assette tapes u‘ Porter s original 
Soundscriber discs c3pen b\ appluation 

I arh Ballad C oIUh lion Vissar College Library (Speual ( olleHum) Poughkv'eps -■ N3 





Key: NYF - New York Folklore 

NYFQ — New York Folklore Quarterly 
JAF — Journal of American Ftilklore 

Bethke, Robert D. 

1981 Adirondack Voices: Woodsmen and Woodslore. Chicago; University of Illinois Press 
1938 Songs My Grandfather Sang. JAF 48: 379-383. 

Bronner, Simon 

1977 "I Kicked Three Slats Out of Mv Cradle First Time 1 1 loard That": Ken Kane, Country Music 
and American Folklore. NYF 1, 3:4, 53-81. 

1987 Old-Time Music Makers of New York State. Syracuse: Syracuse University Press. 
Bronson. Bertrand 

1959 The Traditional Tunes of the Child Ballads. 4 vols. Princeton Princeton University Press. 
Camp Woodland 

1943 Fourth Annual Festival of the Catskills. Phonecia, N.Y.: Camp Woodland. 

Cazden, Norman 

1952 The Story of a Catskill Ballad. NYFQ 8, 4; 245-248. 

1954 The Riggy Dew. NYFQ 10, 2: 213. 

1958 The Abelard Folk Song Book. New York: Abelard-Schuman. 

1960 Catskill Uickup Songs. NYFQ 16, 2: 90-102. 

Cazden, Norman, Herbert Haufrecht, and Norman Studer 

1982 Folksongs of the Catskills. Albany; State University of New Virk 
Child. Francis James 

1882 The English and Scottish Popular Ballads. 5 vols. Bosti)n; Houghton-Miftlin. 

Curtis, Otis F.. Jr. 

1953 The 'Turtis Collection of Songs. N^'FQ 9, 1 and 4. 

Cutting, Edith 

1944 Lore of an Adirondack County. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 

1947 The Joys of Mar>'. NYFQ 3. 4:‘ 323. 

1947a Peter Parrott and His Songs. NYFQ 3. 2. 124-133. 

1951 New York State Farm Lcue. Special ed. NYFQ 8. 1 

1952 A Pioneer Songster, ed. 

Douglass, Harry S. 

1951 Music in the Valleys. NYFQ 7, 4. 

Dunn, Adda Anna 

1951 Songs. Riddles and Tales of Saratoga County. NYFQ 5. 3: 211-217. 

Eames, Frank 

1947 Lindon's Quid Dog and Hogmany Fair. NYFQ 3. 3: 248. 

Flanders, Helen Martness 

1946 Blue Mountain Like and Barbara Allen N'fFQ 2. 1 52-^,l 

1965 Ancient Ballads Traditionally Sung in New England 4 vols Philadelphia: L nnersity ot Penn- 
sylvania press. 

Flannagan. Margaret 

1945 A Driller's Dream. NYFQ 1, 2: 88 
Gardner. Emelyn Elizabeth 

1937 Rilklore from the Schoharie Hills, Now Virk Ann Arbor L'niversilv ot Mkhigan Press 
Gravcllc, Jean F. 

1971 Th*> Civil War Songster of a Monroe County Farmer NNFQ 27. 2; 16.3-230 
Gray. Roland Palmer 

1936 Balladry of New York State. New York History 18 (April): 147- 155 
Haufrecht. Herbert and Norman Cazden 

1948 Music of the Catskills NYFQ 4. 

Hopkins, Pandora 

1976 Individual Choice and the Control of Musical Change lAF 89; 449-4^2 
Ives, Edward D. 

1983 'The Study of Regional Songs and Ballads. h\ Richard M. Dorson. cd Handbook i»t 
American Rilklore. Bloomington; University of Indiana Press, 208-215 

Johnson. Robert C 

1949 Ballads of Disasters on the Great Likes. NYFQ 5. 3' 202-204 
Jones. Liuis C. 

1936 The Berlin Murder New York History 17: 196-203 
1942 Henry Backus. The Saugt'rlies Bard New 3ork Ilistor\' 23 139.142 
Kaplan. Israel 

1«53 A lohn Brown Ballad N't FQ 9, 1 41 

Kaufman, Charles H. 

1967 An Elhni>miisia*KtgkaI Survey Among the People of the Ramapo Mountains. M'i'FQ 23, 
1: 3-44. 

King. Ethel M. 

1955 The Bard of Saugerlies \M'Q 11. 1; 49-60. 

Lut/. .-\nne 

1947 The Ballad of the Butcher Boy in the Ramapo Mountains. X'i PQ 3, 1; 28-3U. 

Laws. Malcolm 

1950 Nati\e American Balladry Philadelphia. .American K)lklore Societs 
1957 American Balladr\' from British Broadsides. Philadelphia: American Folklore Souetv. 
.McNeil, William K 

19()9 A Schoharie County Songster. NVFQ 23, 1: 3o8. 

Muir, \ Villa 

196^ Living With Ballads. New V>rk' CKtord L niwrsitv Press 
Neil. Janice 

1945 Wa nt that Remarkable'. Otsego Countv Ie\‘s from the Singing ot Mrs R Thurston NN FQ 
1. 4. 109. 

New Virk F\>lklore Quarterly 

1945 Clld Songs and Ballads. FQ 1. 1. 45-49. Including "My Name is C harles Cluitecu ' 
1966 The Adm>ndacks. 22, 2 ijune) special ed. Including articles by 1 aw rence Older, .Anne and 
Frank Warner, and Marjorie Lansing Porter. 

Newton I liiih Foote 

1945 Horses and Steamboats on Like Champlain. ,\A I'Q I. I 
Oring. 1:11 iott 

|971 Whalemen and Their Songs N"^ I'Q 27, 1. I.3t) l=i2 
Caster. Harrv 

|952 A Delansi>n Manuscript o\ Songs NM'Q 4. 

Porter, Martorie Lin sing 

1947a The iVoods .Are Full ot l!m .Ad-i-ron-dat . Sept -t.’tct iBallads ot I il\ Dekirme i 
h*47 Them As Can-Sings Adi-i ron-dac No\.-Dec 

,Ar».hi\es ot the Porter North C ounlry C ollection NM'Q 9, 1 
Schnder. Arther L 

)9hK Arcade Revisti*d. Some .Additional Notes tor A Piiitun \MC2 -4 1 |6-2i> 

Seeger IV'er 

19s4 .A C'ontempi>rarv Ballad-Maker in the Hudsun \alle\ NM'Q 10 2- 133-l.AS 
Sharp. Cecil 1 

1932 English Fn)Iksongs trom the Southern .Appaku hians Maude K»irpeles ed New V»rk c')v 
ft>rd L'ni\ersit\' Press 
Shmin. Susan Rhodes 

H'O Whirling and Apple|a».k in the ( atskills l-Q S 27-2s 
k»lin Allisnn the tolleitcn as I oik Artist \M o ^ 4 
Studer, Norman 

195) Boney Quillen i.>t the C atskills. NM'Q 7 4 27b-2>''l 
Thompson, Harold W 

1940 Bodv. Bools and Britches. I’hiladelphia. I.B. Lipping <41 

1953 The Curtis Collet I ion ot Songs NA FC,) 9 ) ,md 4 
Tv roll, William Cl 

195H Now fork's F-oIklore on Recordings \'\ I Q 14. 3 
Warner. Anne and i rank M 

I9sH a Salute, and a Sampling ot Songs. WFQ 14. 3 

19.S4 Iradilional .American Folk St>ngs from the .Anne and Frank Warner ( olleclion Svratuse. 
Syracuse L'niversitv I Voss 
Wheeler, .Ann King 

NM Ballads and Tales ot Blue Mountain lake .\tlirondjv.ks \MQ 10 11^ 

Van Fpps, Pere\ 

1947 loiu’s Bo\s riu'\ Bulk! a Mill NMQ) 3 4 
Wright Ruth 

1954 Cvps\ Daw NA FQ 10. I. 

/tmm. Lulls llasbroutk 

|9ss I wo Ball.'. Is t>f the Freni h and Indian War \MC3 H ^ 


17 / 



Many line recordings of New Vork State materials are available. This listing includes only recordings 

of traditional singers 

Uiwrence Older of Middle Grove. Neu ^ork. Notes b\' IVter E.. McElligott. Sharon, Conn.: H>lk Legacv* 
Records (ESA 13). 1%3. 

Ted AshLuN : Adirondack Woods Singer. Notes bv Robert Bethke. Ferrisburg, \‘t.: Philo Records (Philo 
1022). 1975. 

Ballads and Songs of the Upper Hudson River Valley Sung by Sara Cleveland i>f Brant l.ake. New 
York. Notes by Kenneth Goldstein. Sharon. Conn.: R^lk Legacy Records (ESA 33). 1%S. 

Sara Cleveland. Notes by Kenneth Goldstein. [North} Ferrisburg, \'t.: Philo Records. 1975. 

Brave Boy: New England Traditions in Folk Music. Notes by Edward D. Ives. New "Vork. New World 
Records (NW 239). 1978. (Despite title, contains some rare New York State field recordings.) 

Lumbering Songs from the Ontario Shanties. Coll, and ed. by Edith Etnvke. New V»rk: Folkways 
Ethnic Library (EM 4052). 1%1. (All but one example were sung on both sides of the border ) 

Songmaker of the Catskills; Grant Rogers ot the Walton, Ness Y>rk. Sharon. Conn.- Fi)lk Legacy 
Records (ESA 270) 


Vol. XIV, Nos. 3-4, 1988 

Haiti Cherie: Journey of an 
Immigrant Music in New York City 


There are 400,000 Haitians in New York City, but as an ethnic group 
they have managed to maintain a low profile. There are several reasons 
for this, the first being the singularity of their language, Haitian Creole. 
A second signiticant isolating factor has been the twenty-nine years of the 
repressive Duvalier regime that discouraged many Haitians from making 
themselves visible, in order to protect loved ones back home. For these 
reasons, few outside the Haitian community in New York are aware of the 
culture that the people of Haiti have brought here. 

The music of Haiti is one of its most prominent cultural hallmarks. A 
long period of political and cultural isolation beginning with the slave-led 
revolution of 1791-1804, and ending with the United States Marine occupa- 
tion of 1915-1934, favored the continuity of certain African musical tradi- 
tions. This continuity is most apparent in the music of the Vodoiai religion, 
in the bands that parade the streets during the celebrations of Carnival 
and RaRu (an Eastertime event), and in the Konbif, a communal work par- 
ty. W'hile Carnival, RaRa, and Ki'mbit are not widely practiced in New York, 
U doint is, and celebrations ft)r the Vodoun spirits are held in basements 
and apartments in Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, and Manhattan. In ad- 
dition, a new event, the ''festival," has emerged as an important form of 
entertainment for the working Haitian in New York City. The survival and 
evolution of such events offers an exceptional opportunity to observe the 
dynamic nature of traditional music practices in new immigrant settings. 


In Haiti, Vodoun rites are cast in a variety of forms ranging frc»m private 
healing sessions to full-scale public dances. The Vodoun dance is of special 
interest because of the central role music plays in it. The dance is held by 
a society presided over by a oini^ati (priest) or a nmubo (priestess), whose 
chief assistants arc the laplas (master of ceremonies) and the o'u/puL'ou (song 
specialist), whose core members are oiuhi (initiated serv'ants). Many of these 
people may be possessed by the lira (spirits! during a dance, but non- 
initiated spectators who attend dances in a more passi\e role mav also 


1 7 :‘ 


receive spirits. 

A dance is part of a larger Vodoun event held for multiple purposes: 
to celebrate the feast day of a Kva; to initiate one or more persons into the 
society; to raise the status of a member, for example of a laplas to oungan; 
to marry an individual to one or more Iwa; to ''feed" the govi, urns which 
hold relics of deceased society members; to mark the yam harvest; to offer 
thanks to the spirits for their blessings; or to baptize sacred objects, like 
drums. The event normally begins in the morning with prayers and the 
sacrifice of an animal. Drumming and song accompany this activity because 
it helps bring the spirits through possession, and possession is desired 
because it is best that the animal be sacrificed by a Kva. During the day 
the sacrificial animal is cooked, and the servants rest in preparation for 
the last phase of the event, the dance, wliich is held in the evening and 
is thought of as a party. 

The continuiti/ of Haitian histoiy and culture is most 
apparent in Vodoun music. 

Vodounists divide the cosmos into the two worlds of living and dead. 
This is represented visually in veve (ritual drawings traced on the ground 
in cornflour) by a horizontal line which places the dead below it; in song 
texts by the metaphor of the surface of the sea, beneath which the dead 
reside; and in the pcristil (the part of the Vodoun temple reserved for dan- 
cing) bv the ground or floor, another horizontal plane that places the dead 
beneath. The lua are spirits of ancient ancest(\*s w!u) are distinguished 
on the basis of outstanding character its and who, over the course of 
the centuries, have become cultural archetypes (Deren 1984: 28-29;, One 
o*” 'he functions of the Vodoun dance is to open a passageway, so to speak, 
i. , tiaffic between the domains of living and dead, so that the living may 
consult the Iwa — in other words, the cultural mcm^^ry and all its ac- 
ctjmulated knowledge. Spirit possession is the chief means of opening this 

In \'ew York, certain modifications in the ritual are common. Animal 
sacrifice is illegal, so only small animals are actually sacrificed. In Haiti, 
a bull is offered to Ogoun, a martial spirit, or a white goat is launched out 
to sea in a small boat as tribute to the sea spirit, Agwe. Neither are feasi- 
ble in New York. Instead, when needed, the meat of these animals is pur- 
chased trom the market. 

Most Vodoun dances in New York take place in basements or small 
apartments. The limited space necessitates the elimination of the poto mitmi 
(centerpost), located in the center of the peristil and around which the socie- 
tv member^ dance. 'Fhe poto initan is also considered a conduit through 
which spirits enter the domain of the living, so to eliminate it is to part 


with a very important symbolic stucture. One oungan in New York allows 
his altar to double as the poto mitan. Vodoun dances in New York tend 
to be shorter than those in Haiti, and they are always held on Saturday 
nights. The schedules of working class Haitian immigrants influences tim- 
ing. In Haiti, where most people are either jobless or run their own 
businesses, the Vodoun timetable is more varied and lengthy. 

Perhaps the most striking difference between Vodoun in Haiti and Vo- 
doun in New York is the presence in New York of participants not of Hai- 
tian birth or descent. Caribbeans other than Haitians and both black and 
white Americans are being initiated into Vodoun societies in growing 
numbers. In one house, special announcements are made in Creole, 
English, and Spanish. The same house is now' considering preparing a 
song book for its members w'ho w^ere not brought up in the milieu of Vo- 
doun. This w'ould be a radical departure from what has ahvays been an 
oral tradition, and it may contribute to stabilizing what has, until now, been 
a flexible corpus of songs, in terms of melody and text. People who are 
not Haitian are also drumming for Vodoun dances in New York. Their 
presence is accepted, and sometimes enc "uraged, by Vodounists. Because 
their appearance on the scene is fairly recent, it would be premature to 
say w'hat effect they are having on drumming style. 

At a typical Vodoun dance, one enters the basement of a house, as 
diagrammed in Figure 1. The altar in this house bears a central crucifix, 
bottles of liquor reserved for the Kva, small dishes of food and candies, 
cakes, flowers, and candles. 

I < 

Figure 1. 

I'loor plan of the peristil oj on oungan I'u Nnr York Cih/. 

By nine or ten in the evening, a group of people have assembled, in- 
cluding the society, the musicians, and spectators. The musicians set up 
their instruments in the space indicated in Figure 1, and other participants 
take their respective positions. The oungan sits in front of the altar on a 
small wicker chair. At a sign from him, the ounjenikon begins the prie 
(prayers) that open every Vodoun dance. 

The pne are addressed to God and spoken in French. They are a blunt 
statement of the Christian element in Vodoun. Christian rites entered Vo- 
doun during slavery, when the African rites were forbidden and tiierefore 
masked with a veneer of Catholicism. The Vodoun prie are chanted in call- 
and-response form, alternating between ounjenikon and ounsi (soloist and 
chorus, respectively), and the musicians accompany with occasional rolls 
on drums and iron (a struck metal idiophone). 

Vodoun musicians use several kinds of drums: a struck metal instru- 
ment called an oga^j; a gourd rattle covered with beads and affixed with 
a small clappered bell, known as the asou and used by oungan and man- 
bo; and a gourd rattle with pellets inside called a tcha-tcha, which is also 
used by oungan and manbo. In Haiti, drums must be constructed a cer- 
tain way and with certain materials. Because these requirements are often 
difficult to meet in New York, conga drums are seen more often than Hai- 
tian drums. The resultant sound is not the same, but the difference is ac- 

A Vodoun dance is a series of salutations to the Iwa of various nations 

the- word ''nations'' referring to the many ethnic groups that composed 
the slave population of colonial Haiti. During the revolutionary period, 
the slaves thought of themselves as a confederation united to ov'erthrow 
colonial rule, and in their meetings, they saluted the gods of the member 
nations in turn. This pattern was adopted in Vodoun, Since the slaves from 
Dahomey had a strong influence in the formation of Vodoun, their spirits 
— referred to today as the Rada spirits—came to be saluted first. 

During a typical dance, the Rada spirit called Legba is sung to first, 
because he is the guardian of the crossroads, entrancewavs, and therefore 
the point of intersection between the human and spirit worlds. The oun- 
jenikon begins singing, 'Vuvre bah pou Atibon Papa Ugba, Kite pep pase^ e 
a, vie zo” ["Open the door for Atibon Papa Legba, let the people pass, 
oh, old bones"]. She accompanies herself on the ason, which is alwavs 
used for the Rada spirits, and which employs a specific rhv^thmic pattern. 
When she hcis finished, the ounsi repeat what she has sung, and the musi- 
cians begin to play. One of the latter plaj’s the ogan, and the others play 
the three drums known as the "Rada battery," if the traditional Rada drums 
are available. Rada drums are single-headed; the head is made of cow skin 
and attached to the hard-wood body with pegs set arcui d the upper end 
of the drum. They are tuned by beating the pegs into the body, thus tighten- 
ing the skin. The three drums are known as maman, the largest and lowest 
pitched; segon, c;f medium si/e and pitch; and hnihi sniail and high pitched. 


1 s: 


The master drummer, leader of the ensemble, plays the maman. 

After addressing Legba, there are salutations to a number of other Rada 
Iwa. These rites are characterized by order, restraint, and a stress on the 
hierarchical relationships among the participants. Order seems to be broken 
when a servant is possessed by a Ivva, although in reality, possession is 
much under the control of the presiding oungan. 

The Djouba is the second nation to be saluted at a Vodoun dance. The 
Iv/a in this group are representative of the earth and are the patrons of 
farmers. When a Djouba spirit takes possession of a de\^otee, he is outfit- 
ted in blue denim and a straw hat. He smokes a pipe and carr'as a satchel. 
His dance is different from the dance of the Rada Iwn, and the drum pat- 
terns that accompany him are also different. 

When the Djouba phase of the dance is over, rites for the Nago Iwa 
begin. Again, the drum patterns change as the ounjenikon sings for Ogoun, 
the name given to most of the Nago deities. The dance steps become more 
forceful, appropriate to the ) Iwa because of their association with iron 
and warfare. The drumbeats are chaiacte'rized by heavy incessant beating 
with a stick by the master drummer. 

The oungan gets up from his wicker seat, seemingly in a daze. Shak- 
ing his head and blinking, he begins to step forward, then stumbles. Two 
ounsi come forward to contain his struggling movements. When the master 
drummer sees what is occurring, he plays a kase, a pattern that departs 
radically from the primary pattern, thereby disorienting the dance and 
listeners, and encouraging possession. The kase is said to be a most effec- 
tive way of bringing the Iwa into a servant's head. Deren offers her inter- 
pretation of the kase: 

[The drummer] can permit the tension to build to just the level 
where the break [kase] serves . . . climax it in a galvanizing 
shock . . . which abruptly empties the head and leaves one 
without any center around which to stabilize . . . Instead of be- 
ing able to move in the long, balanced strides of relaxation, the 
defenseless person is buffeted by each great stroke, as the drum- 
mer sets out to "beat the loa into bis head." (1984: 242) 

Within moments, the oungan has become the spirit Ogoun. 

During his presence in the temple, Ogoun holds audience with those 
present. He signals the musicians to silence and has several ounsi distribute 
the food that has been prepared for him. Ounsi and spectators consult with 
Ogoun on a variety of problems: love, health, jobs, and so on. 

The feasting and conversation done, music and dance begin again, this 
time with Ogoun leading the song. Kventually, the body that the Iwa has 
inhabited collapses, and several ounsi ease him into a chair. Ogoun has 
departed, closing the Nago rites. 

O I 



The balance of the dance is dedicated to the hva of the PtHro and the 
Cede nations. These groups are thought of as cho (hot). The IVtros are ag- 
gressive, and during their rites, the social hierarchy so carefully articulated 
in Rada rites and somewhat muted in rites for the warrior Nagos, finally 
dissolves and the communal mode takes over. Petro rites are noted for their 
use of slave imagery, such as the whistle and the crack of the whip. The 
drummers play Petro drums, if available, which use a goatskin head at- 
tached by laces and tuned by sliding pegs along the laces against the soft- 
w'ood body of the instrum.ent. The master drummer, who remains seated 
during Rada rites, is free to move during Petro. There is often niuch in- 
teraction between him and the possessed. 

Rites for the Cede close the dance. A Cede is a hva of the cemetery, 
and thus rules over life and death and is prayed to for fertility. Cedes dance 
is explicitly sexual, and the hva likes to invite servants to dance with hini, 
to the amusement of spectators. In fact, the dissolution of social hierarchy 
noted during Petro rites is carried further by the Cedes, and anyone who 
likes may lead the singing, .At the same time, rites for Cede give the entire 
e\ ening a restitution : one of Cede's symbols is the cross, the same symbol 
that opened the dance in connection with Legba, guardian of the 

The Festival 

While Vodoun rituals fulfill the spiritual needs of Haitian immigrants 
to New York, the "festival" meets the need for relaxation and entertain- 
ment. But the festival also goes beyond this, as it seek*- to establish a cultural 
identity hir people who are attempting to forge a new life for themselves 
while holding on to the best of their heritage. 

Festix’als are typically held on Sunday e\^enings, just before the begin- 
ning cif a new work and school week. They are always advertised to begin 
at six o'clock, but thev rarelv begin before seven. The extra hour has its 
function. Audience members mingle and socialize. Festivals usually take 
place at schotil auditoriums, like those of Broc)klvn College, Clara Barton 
High School, Wingate High School, and Prospect High School, or in 
Catholic church auditoriums. Most are located in Brooklyn, usually in the 
centers of Haitian neighborhoods. 

The festival is a variety show*. The elements of the program are generally 
the same: tme or two compa^ bands, one or more solo \'ocalists, a come- 
dian, and a folkloric troupe. During the course of the show; aw'ards mav 
be given to ciimmunity members in recognition of their contributions to 
the community. Sometimes a raffle is held, with proceeds going to a school 
or church or some other worthy cause in Haiti. 

The main attractii^n at a festival is the compas band. The word com- 
pas means "w’ith the step" or Avith the measure." It dates back to the l%0s 
and the ’.vork of bandleaders Weber Sicot and Nemours Jean-Baptiste, w'ho 
uxirked to modernize traditional Haitian meringue, 0\'cr the years, tht* trap 


I r.-'i 


set and the electric guitar of American rock music were incorporated into 
the compas ensemble, and Haitians coming back from teaching jobs in the 
newly independent Zaire brought with them the Central African guitar 
style now characteristic of compas (Manuel 1988). Compas, then, is an 
amalgam of many styles, with an emphasis on the innovative and 

The "festival” provides both fun and cultural identity 
for working Haitiajis in the city. 

Compas bands play in clubs in the Haitian community, located in Hai- 
tian neighborhoods in Brooklyn, Queens, Lc)ng Island, and Rockland Coun- 
ty Some cater to doctors, lawvers, and successful businessmen, but there 
are clubs for working-class people as well. The club offers Haitian cuisine 
and ample floor space for couple dancing. An evening out in Haitian 
club calls for elegant dress. Clubs located outside the Haitian community, 
such as Manhattan's Sounds of Brazil, are less formal, as Haitians mix with 
Americans who move to the beat in their own fashion 

For the general Haitian community however, the best access to a live 
compas band is through the festival. Thev are enormouslv popular and 
are therefore saved for the end of the program. If a festival is trulv a "spec- 
tacle," it will feature two bands. At present, the most ^ ipular compas bands 
in New York are Tnbou Combo, Skah-Shah, System Band, Magnum Band, 
and Coupe Cloue. 

In recent wars, compas has faced stiff competition from the zonk bands 
of Martinque and Guadeloupe. Zouk resembles compas but leans more 
toward rock. The lead vocalist is more tvpically female, w’here a compas 
band uses a male lead. The Guadeloupian group Kassav enjoys immense 
popularity among Haitians in New York, and a Haitian \'ersion, calling itself 
Sakad, has been formed, Sakad has appeared in many small-scale festivals 
in Brooklvn. 

Compas and zouk bands emphasize the new*, the modern. The late 
Firmin Joseph, a refugee who ran one of the Haitian community 
newspapers and who was also a festival organizer, believed that Haitians 
in New York need to set' that they are part of a new wt)dd. Compas bands 
give them assurance that their lives are moving forward. At the same time, 
they are "nostalgic of Haiti" and want to remember where thev came from. 
The "folkloric" music and dance troupes fulfill this need. 

New York boasts some seven Haitian dance companies ~ the I bo 
Dancers, Troupe Makandal (Figs, 2, 3), Lou ires Lou inis, and Trtiupc 
Konbit, to name a few. Most of their members worked in similar organiza- 
tions in Port-au-Prince. The troupes draw their rc’pcrtoire from the music 
and dar :e of Haitian Vodoun, Carnival, RaRa, and the Konbit. 



Figure 2. La Troupe Makandai. Photo by Chantal Regnault, 1983. 

Figure 3. La Troupe Makandai, tierforming a Vodoim ceremony at Washington 
Sijuare Church, Nar York City, 1986. Photo by Robert Browning, World Music 

The number and types of personnel in a danre troupe vary, but main- 
tain certain parameters. At a minimum, three or four drummers/percus- 
sionists are needed, plus at least half a dozen dancers. A larger troupe 
would include more dancers. One member of a company, usually a dancer, 
serves as artistic director. He/she may be assisted by a dance captain. Often, 
certain personnel are designated to oversee props and wardrobe. The 
manager, usually not a performer, handles the group's business matters. 

The typical Haitian "folkloric" performance presents three or four 
choreographies. Musicians appear on stage first. After they strike up, 
dancers enter from the wings. Both musicians and dancers are flamboyantly 
costumed. The dancers' costumes are based on the same ritual or festival 
sources that the music and dance derive from, but they are more stylized. 
Musicians are colorful, too, with tropical shirts and large Panama hats. 
Choreography is usually abstract, and the dance steps more stylized than 
their traditional sources. Occasionally, there is a narrative, as in the Ibo 
Dancers' "Ogoun," which depicts the battle of warrior spirits over Erzili, 
goddess of love. Each choreography comes to a well-defined close as 
dancers exit to the wings. 

The festival is not complete without one or more vocalists. The musical 
style here reflects Haiti's European heritage. Leon Dimanche, Jean-CIaude 
Eugene, Ansy Derose, and Maryse Coulanges, among many others, occa- 
sionally use a tropical lilt, but the music draws from pop, soft rock, and 
even American country music, lacking in Afro-Caribbean rhythmic pat- 
terns. Most of it is easy listening. Notably, some of the younger among 
these singers use lyrics full of political and social references. 


In New York, Haitian music and dance have undergone some striking 
changes. In general, the structures of music and dance have remained 
stable, but meanings have shifted, as have the audiences for particular forms 
of music. "Folkloric" troupes illustrate this phenomenon. These troupes 
were first organized in Haiti after World War II with the advent of tourism 
and for many years their primary audience consisted of outsiders. In New 
York today, the same folkloric repertoire is offered to Haitian immigrants. 
Meanwhile, for the non-Haitian in New York, the folkloric troupe has 
evolved yet another form of entertainment: the staged Vodoun ritual. The 
idea is to recreate, as closely as possible in the performance context, the 
Vodoun dance. These various kinds of adaptations of traditional music and 
dance appear to b^e related to ethnicity of audience, performer, and presenter 
(Wilcken 1%3). For the outsider in New York, the "voodoo" ceremony is 
a novelty to be experienced. For the Haitian immigrant, it is a symbol of 
onc'.s roots and need not be reproduced realistically; a stylized version is 
preferred. A neat, polished performance — in other words, the 
cheueographed piece of the folkloric troupe — is more appealing than an 
improvised one, and a staged Vodoun ceremony has the appearance C)f 



improvisation. Additionally, any Haitian in New York . ho wants to see 
a Vodoun ritual may go to one in a natural, not a staged, setting, and en- 
joy himself/herself for an entire evening of song, dance, food, and drink. 
Two hours or so of sitting in a theatre doesn't approximate such an even- 
ing. Haitian performers, moreover, think of themselves as artists and want 
to display their training. Both audiences and performers, then, make a 
sharp distinction between Vodoun and "folklore," which are, respectively, 
religion and art. 

Some structural changes music are becoming noticeable, however, 
as the festival and its contents spill over into areas outside the Haitian com- 
munity. Most of the major compas bands have played at non-Haitian 
venues. Some use English text, American jazz and rock techniques, and 
white American horn players. Folkloric companies continue to represent 
Haiti in non-Haitian schools, clubs, and concert halls, where they instruct 
as well as entertain. Moreover, the participation of outsiders in Vodoun 
rituals mav eventually alter the tradition. The isolation of the Haitian com- 
munity and its music is perhaps becoming a thing of the past, and New 
York may soon be enjoying more of its rich and vital culture. 


I In Haih. the >;u\». rnmcnt-tundi.'ii rnaipe \atmnaU’ .lUgmenK ils rnu-u \\ilh bras^. eleOnc and 
ati'iisMt guitars, and Uettric piano Ui Iroupi.' Makandal in Now \tirk is usin>; a similar idea iin 
a smaller scale 


C ouriander Han 'Id 

bCl Mu’ Hruni and the Hiu- i ite «ind l ore ot ihi' llaiti<in I < >ple Pu ikelev and I *i‘> An>;eles. 
Lni\ers:t\ ot kalit<>rnia Tress 

Hath S'" New Nork Cooper Sijuare Tublishers ln^. 

IVren Maya 

niiune Horsemen: The l.i\in>; Clods ot Haiti R»reword bv loseph Campbell. (Reprint edi- 
tion L"*rijvnal edition London and New Vtrk '' bames and Hudson ) New Tall/. \\ 

.McTherson ^ C o 
Li>;uerre. Mithel 

i^SO \oodoo Heritage. Be\erl\ Hills Sage Tublicalions 

1US4 .American Cldvssev Haitians in New Vtrk C il\ Anthropologv ot (.'onlempiirar\ Issues series. 
Roger Saniek ed Ithaca and l-ondtm C'tirnell L'ni\ersil\ Tress 
Manuel, Teter 

HSS Topular \Uisics ot the \im-Western World \n lntroductor\ \iw ^urk C>-*t'‘rd 

Metr.uiv .Alt red 

bC2 N’oodoo in Haiti New Nork St hoi. ken Books 
W ikken I ois t 


Ihe .Musk and 1 Mni.e 

ot liaitk, 

,n \odou in the 

1 rhan I lu ir.'nmenl. Taper prese 

nted at the 

Iwentv-se\enth Conti 

.'rence ot 

the InlernatU'nal ^ ouncil tor 1 raditional .Musk, 

C olumbia 

Lni\ersit\ New ^^>rk 


\udou Musu among 

1 laitians 

1 w ing in Nei\ 

dork As\mholk \pp’ suh M 

A Thesis, 

1 liinler C olU ol tin 

(. it\ 1 ' 

'iiU'*' it\’ .'I Nev 



s3 '..d 



Courlander, Harold , , , , , , j r 

1952 Music of Haiti, Vols. 1-3 (FE 4403/4407.’4432). Recorded in Haiti by Harold Courlandt^. In- 
troduction and notes by Harold Courlander. New York: Folkways Records and Ser\'ico Corp. 

^ Vodun-Rada Rites for Erzulie (FE 4491). Recorded in Haiti by Verna Gillis, assisted by Wen- 

dy Erdman. New York; Folkways Records and Service Corp. 

Hill, Richard and Morton Marks . o u 

n.d. Voodoo Trance Music: Ritual Drums ol Haiti: (LI.ST 7279). Recordings and notes by Richard 
Hil! and Morton Marks. New York: Lyrichord Discs. Inc. 

Ito, Chervl and Tieji Ito „ .. . w rx r j . j 

1980 Divine Horsemen: The \bodooGodsofHaiti(Ll^T7341). Recordings Iw Maya Deren. Edited 
bv Cheryl and Teiji Ito, Now \brk: Lyrichord Discs, Inc. 

SKah-Shah . r, . cu i i 

1987 Van Libcte. (compasj New York; Los Productions Pas do bhan Inc. 

Contributors to this Issue 

Ray Allen is Director of Research and Education at the World Music In- 
stitute. He is a member of the Executive Board of the New York 
Folklore Society, and resides at 85 Eastern Parkway, Apt. 2D, Brooklyn, 
NY 11238. 

Simon J. Bronner is Coordinator of the American Studies Program, and 
Professor of Folklore and American Studies at the Pennsylvania State 
University at Harrisburg, Middleton, PA 17057. He is Editor of The 
Folklore Historian, and of the American Material Culture and Folklife 
for series for UMI Research Press. 

Sotirios (Sam) Chianis is Associate Professor of Ethnomusicology, and 
Chairman of the Department of Music, State University of New York, 
Binghamton, NY 13901. 

Michael Sam Cronk has been an Instructor in the Department of Music, 
Queen's University; he is currently a Research Associate for SPINC 
(Sound-Producing Instruments in Native Communities). He resides 
at 817 Lome Ave., London, Ontario N5W 3K9, Canada. 

Linda Fujie was Visiting Professor of Music at Colby College in Waterville, 
ME, 1986-1988. She is currently conducting research in Germany, and 
resides at Meerscheidstr. 7, D-1000 Berlin 19, West Germany. 

Nancy Groce is a Program Officer for the New Ybrk Council for the 
Flumanities. She has served on the Boards of the New York Folklore 
Society and the Middle Atlantic Folklore Association. She resides at 
338 E. 70th St., Apt. 3B, New York, NY 10021. 

James W. Kimball is Chair of the Niagara Chapter of the Societv for 
Ethnomusicology. He is a Lecturer in the Music Department, State 
University College, Geneseo, NY 14454. 

Audrey Mazur is a Ph.D. candidate in Brown University's Department of 
Music. She resides at 2580 Ocean Parkway, Apt. 4B, Brooklyn NY 

Rebecca S. Miller is an independent folklorist, and Folklorist-in-Residcnce 
at the Henry Street Settlement, New York City. She resides at 509 
W. noth St., Apt. 8B, New York, NY 10025. 

Henry H. Sapoznik is Chief Archivist at the Max and Frieda Weinstein 
Archives of Recorded Sound, YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, 1048 
5th Avenue, New York, NY 10028. 

Michael Schlesinger is President of Global Village Music, P.O. Box 2051, 
Cathedral Station, New York, NY 10025. 




Roberta Singer is Director of Music Programs at City Lore, New York Ci- 
ty's Center for Urban Folk Culture. She serves on the Executive Board 
of the US. Chapter of the International Association for the Study of 
Popular Music. City Lore, Inc., 72 E. 1st St., New York, NY 10003. 

Madeline Anita Slovenz is a Ph.D. candidate in New York University's 
Department of Performance Studies. She resides at 153-57 Horace 
Harding Boulevard, Flushin*:, New York 11367. 

Vaughn Ramsey Ward has taught folklore in high school and in college. 
Currently she is Staff Folklorist at the Ix)wer Adirondack Regional 
Arts Council, in Glens Falls. Her mailing address: P.O. Box 201, Rex- 
ford, NY 12148. 

Lois E. Wilcken is a Ph.D. candidate in ethnomusicology at Columbia 
University, and. Manager of La Troupe Makandal, a Haitian folkloric 
music/dance company. She is Newsletter Editor for the Mid-Atlantic 
Chapter of the Society for Ethnomusicology. She resides at 621 
Rutland Road, 4C, Brooklyn, NY 11203. 


19 ) 

Editor's Year-End Report (Sept. 1987 - Aug. 1988) 

presented to the Annual Meeting of the 
New York Folklore Society, Alexandria Bay, NY 
September 23-25, 1988 

Highlights of the year. A grant from The Folk Arts Program of the Nev/ 
York State Council on the Arts enabled us to produce a Special Publica- 
tion, Folk Arts-in-Eduction in New York State,” the text of which also ap- 
peared as pp. 1-48 of Neiv York Folklore, XIII, 3-4. Over 6000 flyers were printed 
and mailed to elementary and secondary schools across the State, with 
addresses provided gratis by the NYS Department of Education. Special 
thanks to John Milne of that Department for authorizing this service. In 
terms of energy expended and monies received from sales thus promoted, 
this has been an uneconomical operation; but it fulfills an appropriate role 
of the Society. See "Sales," below. 

Vol. XIV, Nos. 1-2, with Mia Boynton's Special Section on "Folklore in 
the Industrial Workplace," was distributed to members June 9. The jour- 
nal's new design has received generally favorable reactions. See Editor's 
Preface, Our New Look, that issue. Having learning from experience, 
we reduced our expectations regarding sales of special issues and issues 
containing special sections; just 650 copies of this issue were printed, plus 
our usual 50 unbound copies for separation into off-prints for purchase 
by authors. 

1000 copies of a hand-designed flyer advertising the Fall issue on folk 
music were made, for distribution at various folk music festivals throughout 
the summer. We sent a form letter announcing this special issue to 45 book 
and music publishers, inviting them to purchase advertising space. 

"Folk and Traditional Music in New York State," Guest-Edited by Ray 
Allen and Nancy Groce, will appear as Vol. XIV, Nos. 3-4. It will contain 
14 original essays, each with bibliography and discography and additional 
references as "recommended reading" or "listening." Much of the publica- 
tion and marketing expense of this extraordinary special issue will be 
covered by a grant of $7000 from NYSCA. A separate flyer will be design- 
ed and printed, for distribution at the American Folklore Society meetings, 
and elsewhere. We expect publication and distribution in November. 

Manuscripts. 13 volunteered papers were receiv'ed by the Editor. 4 were 
rejected, 4 accepted after revisions, 5 still await authors' revisions. Other 
material was solicited by the Guest Editors. 



Assistance. Editorial Board: Joyce Ice accepted the Editor's invitation to join 
the Board, beginning Fall 1988. Mary A. Twining advised the Editor that 
she will withdraw from the Board at the end of 1988. 

Office Assistance: Two work-study students assisted in the Editorial 
Office in the Fall and Spring, 1987-88: Karen Overton and Michael Zelie. 
Zelie was approved for a summer assignment, at 6 hours per week. Both 
assistants lost their finding for 1988-89, as they were able to obtain sup- 
port for their studies elsewhere. The Editor has applied for assistance, but 
applications were necessarily late, and at this time he has no assurance 
of assistance through the College Work-Study program. One undergraduate 
student. Crystal Mazur, will work with the Editor in return for academic 
credit, for 6 hours per week in the Fall semester. 

Review readers: Manuscripts were graciously and competently 
reviewed by Robert Bethke, Jan Harold Brunvand, V.A. Chittenden, Ar- 
chie Green, Murray Heller, Jovce Ice, jack Santino, and A.T. Steegman, Jr. 
The Editor expresses his sincere thanks to them. 

Sales. The Tresurer will report v'ery satifactory income from total sales of 
back issues of Neic York Folklore. The Editorial Office has been recording 
sales of certain issues: "Buffalo" (X, 3-4, 1984), 115 copies at $906.50; 
"Marketing R)lk Art" (XII, 1-2, 1986), 12copies, $121.00; "Migrant Workers" 
(XIII, 1-2, 1987), 94 copies, $690.00; "R)Ik Arts-in-Education" (special publica- 
tion) 140 copies, $46750. We continue to offer back issues of Nru' York Folklore 
Quarterly, as available, at $1 each plus postage. 

Other matters. The idea of a special issue on "Folklore in New York City" 
has been shelved for lack of resptmse. Other suggestions for special issues 
"have been received, including: Native American lore in New York State; 
Afro-Caribbean Religions; Folklorists in the Public Sector. 

The idea of a 40-year Index is still being pursued. Bruce Jackson, 
member of the NYF Editorial Board and Editor of the lounial of American 
Folklore, has offered to share his experiences in compiling a 100-year Index 
for the ]AF. 

Our relationship with Partners' Press of Buffak'» continues to be 
thoroughly satisfactory. Another printer has expressed interest in taking 
over production aiid distribution tif the journal. Discussion of this matter 
will continue. 

The Editor's term expires the end tif 1988 and he will mit seek re- 
appointment to another term; but he has offered to continue to supervise 
the editcirial process through production of the Spring 1989 issue, or to 
June 1989, while a new Editor is sought. President Ward has accepted this 

Vol. XV, Nos. 1-2, 1989 will be a general issue of volunteered and in- 
dividually solicited papers. We have set a deadline of December 15 for 
receipt of hcu’ material for consideration for that issue. Authors of papers 

19 : 



returned to them for revision have been urged to aim for that deadline, 
also. All individuals who have expressed interest in submitting papers have 
been advised that material received after December may have to c vait deci- 
sion by the new Editor. 

Respectfully submitted, 

P.S., jr. 





In-House Design 
Computerized Typesetting 

FAX 716/876-9171 


• -^•14 



Revised Edition 
Edited by Richard Kostelanetz 

M aintaining the incomparable qualities of its predtHTessor, this newly revised edition include? 

forty-two essays from the original volume plus over ten additional selections. Together they 
form the most comprehensive collection ever assembled on general esthetic principles relevant tc 
post- 1960 avant-garde arts. Societal and art historical viewpoints are explored as the authors asses? 
the esthetic and cultural implications of the new arts. 

Contributors include: George Brecht, Kenneth Buike, Jack Burnham, John Cage, Ulises Carrion, 
Mark E. Cory, Marcel Duchamp, Allen Ginsberg, Nelson Goodman, Robert Irwin, Ric hard Kostelanetz, 
George Kubler, Marshall McLuhan, Moholy-Nagy, Manfred Mohr, Linda Nochlin, Brian O'Doherty, 
Morse Peckham, Jackson PolIcKk, Steve Reich, Harold Rosenberg, Carole Schneenann, Peter Wollin, 
and others. 

412 pages • ISBN 0-87975-480-X • Paper $18.95 


Ingrid Stadler 

T his stimulating collection of essays examines the complex intersection where art and philosophy 
merge, and offers some fresh vit'wpoinis on the apprec iation of art as it enters the late '80s, 
Some topics of discussion include the criticism of Robert Hughes and Tom Wolfe, a retrospective 
gaze at the Minimalist sculpture of the '60s, an examination of the metaphysics of photography, 
an appreciation of the paintings of Jackson Pollock, and some reflections on why v.omen have 
been denied entrance to the pantheon of great artists. 

153 pages • ISBN 0-87975-383-8 • Cloth $21.95 


lean Cabbert Harrell 

A n original philosophical inquiry into the grounding of major value judgments in auditory art. 

The essay argues against relativism of judgment in aesthetics, and indicates serious limits in aesthetic 
theories designed to apply to all "arts" and, indisc riminately, to all sensory mc^ia. 

1 1 5 pages • ISBN 0-87975-334-X • Cloth $1 8.95 

Published in Western New York by 

Prometheus Books 
Call (716) 837-2475 

700 East Amherst St„ Buffalo NY 1421 5 

Add $2.25 for postage and handling, plus applicable sales tax. 

W'C each create meaiiin^ ifi our //iu‘s hy practici}!^ 
UHwy fauiHy, etluiic a}ui repioual tnuUtioiic^. 

We are all tradition hearers. 

IS a cuiiecuon oi ossa vs wmen 

Saunas, regional legem Is and a myriad ol traditions belong- 
ing [o the many cultures found in Michigan. 

Throughout the selection ■ pioneering Michigan folklorists set 
familiar steretU v'pes tt) rest. Ftilklife is not just rural, it is urban 
and even suburban. Ftdk artists and tradition bearers are of all 
ages. Folk music, art, architecture, legends and tales are not 
crude nor primitive, but are in fact sophisticated in form and 
meaning. Ft)lk!ife is not old nor preindustrial; but rather it is with 
us todaV/ and new forms emerge even in industrial contexts. 

Fdited bv C. Kurt Dewhurst and Yvonne R. Lockwood 
ISBN) 8701T-259-8, (Cloth) 

ISBN 87013-266-0, (Paper) 

Michigan State University IVess 
1403 S. Ilarristm Road, Suite 23 
Manly Miles Bldg. 

F'ast Lansing, Ml 48823-3202 
(317) 333-9343 

[.X ^ ' IS a collection oi essays wmen 

f \ V,, stimulate a richer under* 

’1 ^ 

\ • standing of Michigan folklife 


The essavs explore such topics as Cornish Pasties, Finnish 



19 / 

jSIetv from 


Crime Victim Stories 

New York City’s Urban Folklore 

By Eleanor Wachs 

. . an original study of an exciting, often shocking 
body oj material." —Jan H. Brumand ' 

Crime Victim Stories looks at the frightening world of urban 
violence. Eleanor Wachs analyzes stories of muggings and 
other crime experiences told by native New Yorkers. By using 
thepeponal-experience narrative, the author shows how these 
shocking stories about the danger and violence of city streets 
reveal attitudes toward crime, urban groups, and life in general 
in New York City. These true accounts, frequently embedded 
in social conversations, suggest ways in which city folk plan to 
thwart future victimization and tell how a candidate for a 
mugging— almost anyone— can avoid becoming a victim. 
Crime Victim Stories presents oft-told tales of city life that 
sometimes shock, often entertain, and also enhance our 
understanding of daily experience in what is believed to be one 
of America’s most dangerous cities. 

"IThis book! is a contribuUon oj considerable substance 
because it takes a holistic view oJ the field of folk music 
and the scholarship that has dealt u'ith it." -Bruno Netti 

Bohiman examines folk music as a genre of folklore from a broadly 
cross-cultural perspective and espouses a more expansive view of 
folk music, stressing its vitality in non-Western cultures as well as 
Western, in the present as well as the past. 


Tenth and Morion Streets • Bloomington, IN 47404 • 812-335-6804 

cloth $29.50 paper $10.95 

Also of interest: 

The Study of Folk Music 
IN THE Modern World 

By Philip V. Bohiman 


cloth $35.00 paper $10.35 



At bookstores, or order from 


The New York Folklore Society 

founded 1944 Aiinuai Membership brings you 

• two double issues of • four issues of 






8-12 illustrated pages of news, notes, 
and special features. 

One of the world’s leading folklore 

• Announcements of special events of folkloric interest 

• Discounts on back issues and special publications 

• Reduced registration fees at our fun-filled meetings held 
each Spring in New York City and each Fall at a noted 
historic or scenic spot “upstate.” 

Membership categories, effective 1989; 

Institution — $35 
Individual — $25 

(U.S. only; send 
photocopy of current ID) 
- $15 

Foreign Institution — $40 

Foreign Individual — $30 

Membership is for the 
calendar year. Send check 
or Institutional Purchase 
Order to New York Folklore 
Society, P.O. Box 130, 
Newfield, NY 14867 





Editorial Policy and Information for Contributors 

Manuscripts submitted to the Editor should represent original contribu- 
tions to folklore studies. While maintaining an emphasis on the folklore 
of New York State, the Editor welcomes material based on the folklore of 
any area of the world. Articles contributing to the theory, methodology, 
and geography of folklore are especially welcome, but the journal also 
publishes purely descriptive articles in the ethnography of folklore, and 
provides a home for ''orphan" tales, narratives, songs, etc. Contributors 
of the latter are urged to provide as much contextual information as possi- 
ble. Such material, as well as short articles, comments, research reports, 
etc., may be published as Folklore Notes. 

Articles normally should not exceed 7,500 words. The most recent Style 
Cmido and statement of Editorial Policy appears in Vol. XIII, Nos. 3-4, 
Winter-Spring 1987, or is available from the Editor. All material should be 
typed double-spaced on opaque white non-erasable paper. A separately- 
typed abstract of about 75 words should accon«pany each Article or item 
intended as a Note. Tables should appear separately from the text, 
numbered consecutively. The original and two copies of all textual and 
tabular material should be submitted. Text figures (drawings, charts, maps, 
photographs) should be clean and ready for publication. The original ms. 
and text figures will be returned if accompanied by sufficient first-class 


The John Ben Snow 
Manuscript Prize 

Syracuse Universily Press — lOlh Anniyersary 

/ / j 

Fii'si awardt’d in M)7tS, ilic joliii Ik’ii Snow Manust ripi Pri/o 
(){ SInOO is gi\cMi aiiiuiallv by Svracusr L’niunsiiv Press lo die 
' ulior oi a distinguished nonfiction inanusciipt dealing with 
some aspec t of New Wu k State. 

d lie award eiuouragc‘s the writing of Iiooks of genuine 
significance and lilerar\ distinction that will augment knowl- 
edge* of New \’oi k State. es])ec iall\ the* upstate area, and stim- 
ulate appreciation for its uni(|ue ph\sical, historical, and 
eultural characteristics. The awaicl consists of the prize and 
publication hv the I'less. 

I'lir / 9rV7 Jaluf Bru .Sb/uvr M(imLsnij)t Prize Wiinirr is . . . 

Old-Time Music Makers 
of New York State 


“A fascinating and important 
stud\ which will help to correct 
‘tile Southern bias' of cMi'liei his- 
tories of cauniti v music. ... A 
wondc‘1 f ill book i ec*onimc‘ndc‘d 
for amone with a serious inteiest 
in old-time music . ' 

— Blur<!;ras\ I ^iilimifrd 


jS j>Ii()togra|^hs. 

70 iniisiciil rx<m)plc*s, 
disc ogi <iphic*s. in(i(“x (iloth S‘i0.0a 

liujumcs aud suhmissio)\s for /lu' StKnr Pnzr max hr fnadr to: 

Dii ec tor 

S\racusc‘ l iiiversitv Press 
KiOO Jaiiiesville Avenue 
Svracusc’, Nc’w ^■()l•k l.S2 J br)M)0